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Kenyans Gang Up Against Sakaja As He Sues Activist For Sh100M Over Alleged Defamation



A section of Kenyans have turned their backs on Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja and accused him of being intolerant towards fair criticism after suing Human Rights activist Jerotich Seii for alleged defamation.

Coming hot on their heels, the Nairobi boss is being criticized for not having a hard shell to deal with criticism from his voters.

The governor has moved to court seeking Sh100 million in damages from the activist and Standard Media Group for defamatory remarks she allegedly made during an interview with Spice FM.

The suit doesn’t come as a surprise as Seii has in the recent past put up a sustained campaign against the governor especially on social media stemming from illegal structures suffocating the city.

The Suit

In the court document, Sakaja asserts that on January 26, Jerotich Seii appeared as a guest on the program, where she insinuated collusion between him and real estate developers to erect high-rise buildings exceeding legal height limits.

“On the 26th day of January 2024, the 2nd Defendant/Respondent herein, in a morning show programme dubbed ‘The Situation Room’ that was aired by one of its radio stations by the name Spice FM, hosted the 1st Defendant as the guest speaker where alongside the programme hosts namely Mr. Eric Latiff, Ms. Ndu Okoh and Mr. Charles T Muga, went on a discourse of discussing the guest’s views about the recent unveiled Chinese Property Developers Association,” the statement read in part.

According to Sakaja, the program hosts failed to moderate the guest’s remarks, which he claims have tarnished his reputation and undermined his status as a reputable citizen, as enshrined in Chapter Six of the Constitution.

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The lawsuit specifically highlights statements attributed to Jerotich, implying that the Governor and developers knowingly violated the law.

“The community are organised, they do public participation informing the developers that you are not going to construct here and send them away somehow, these guys end up getting permission/permits that they require and finally after launching the association and going to visit the Governor Sakaja in his office, the following day all permits were issued and they are excavating as we speak,”Jerotich had purportedly stated.

Through his lawyers Okatch & Partners, the governor accuses the activist of defaming him by linking him to a Chinese cartel behind the controversial buildings in the capital.

“She alluded to the fact that the Governor had “gotten to bed” with the Chinese Property Developers and thus neglected the voters who have elected him into his office, to add salt to the injury she vehemently stated that the Governor Johnson Sakaja had left the groups whatsapp in order to avoid accountability and she vehemently stated that:”….Governor Sakaja, left all the Kilimani Foundation whatsapp groups quietly in the dead if the night on the 27th day of December, shortly after that, the Chinese are in his office thereafter, he is launching the Chinese property Developers Association, Immediately after permissions are issued to this company called Alina on Likoni Lane and the MD of Alina is the vice chair of the Chinese property Developers Association. If this is not cartel what is?” Part of the document reads.

The governor seeks not only a financial settlement but also an unqualified apology from the defendants, along with a permanent injunction to prevent further defamatory publications.


Reactions from Kenyans 

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna called out the governor over his decision, “This is a cowardly attempt to silence critics. We need involved citizens like you to keep the elected honest. The beauty is that Nairobi has 5 million of us. Sakaja cannot sue us all.” He write on X.

Taking to X to express their disgust with the suit, a number have marked it as a SLAPP aimed at silencing Seii and potential ‘defamers’. “This looks suspiciously like a SLAPP suit. Unfortunately these are becoming all too common,” John Allan Namu, renowned investigative journalist pointed out.

“The primary goal of a SLAPP is not to win the case, but rather to use the legal process itself to inflict financial and emotional strain on the defendant. Defamation suits are a common SLAPP tactic,” Lawyer Stephen Mallowah explained.

He continued, “high damage awards in defamation suits can create a chilling effect, making individuals or groups hesitant to speak out on matters of public interest for fear of expensive and lengthy court battles. on matters of public interest for fear of expensive and lengthy court battles. The plaintiff is often a wealthy individual, corporation, or government entity with greater resources than the defendant. The allegedly defamatory statements address issues of public concern, such as criticizing business practices or government actions.“

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Some senior lawyers also dismissed the suit as a joke, former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi belittled it sarcastically terming it ‘Obtaining fees through false presences’.

Another lawyer Mr Ndong termed it as a suit in futility, accusing the lawyer who drafted if for misleading the governor, “Sometimes I do think some of my Learned Friends mislead Clients in Defamation suits. Definitely won’t succeed.”

Renowned activists also joined to stand in solidarity with Seii and in calling out Sakaja for his move, “You fight out of pain or passion. What’s important is that when Jerotich wins, the public wins. She is fighting for all Nairobi residents.” Boniface Mwangi said.

“We cannot allow criminals and dishonest politicians like Sakaja who are drunk with power to use the courts to intimidate citizens for exercising their rights!” Said Wanjeri Nderu, “Human Rights Defenders and Active citizens have a right to demand for services and accountability from elected officials. Defamation lawsuits are a tactic used by those afraid of exposure to silence critics we must speak up. This is madness!” She added.

Seii has relentlessly criticized the county government and the governor himself for overseeing rising constructions of alleged dangerous buildings in the capital mostly done by the Chinese contractors that she alleges have pocketed the governor.

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