Joho absence, ‘tired’ supporters cited for no Azimio Coast protests

Mombasa, Kilifi, and Tana River headed by Azimio governors did not witness any demonstrations

In Summary
  • Political analyst Hassan Mwakimako, said the Coast has, “grown fatigued of never -ending Raila’s demonstrations".
  • Mwakimako said former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s absence could also be a factor in why Mombasa did not experience any demonstration.
Streets of Mombasa on March 20
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Streets of Mombasa on March 20

As the opposition strongholds of Nairobi and Nyanza witnessed chaos on Monday during the Azimio mass action, all six Coast counties remained relatively calm.

It came as a surprise to many people, who thought that Mombasa, Kilifi, and perhaps Tana River counties, which are headed by ODM party governors, would hold street protests.

However, leaders and residents kept off the streets.

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir, Kilifi’s Gideon Mung’aro and Tana River’s Dhadho Godhana were missing in action as some leaders and their supporters engaged the police in running battles in their regions.

Last week, Raila had declared Monday a "public holiday" to lead Kenyans on the streets of Nairobi to exert pressure on President William Ruto to yield to Azimio’s demands to lower the cost of living.

He is also pushing for what he calls "electoral justice", which is a mixture of his disputed claim that he won the last election and a push to block the reconstitution of the IEBC.

The Azimio leaders from the Coast, who participated in the Nairobi demonstrations, include Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi Senator), Amina Mnyazi (Malindi MP) and Ken Chonga (Kilifi South MP). They were arrested while picketing in Nairobi.

However, their backyards, which have over the years been Raila’s bastion during general elections, did not witness any kind of street protests and shops stayed open.

In Mombasa, no police patrols were witnessed in the town centre. Only a few traffic officers and county askaris were on duty controlling the vehicles within the central business district.

Shops and businesses along major roads in Mombasa CBD — Moi Avenue, Nkrumah Road, Digo Road, Jomo Kenyatta Avenue and Abdel Nasser Road — were opened. The residents and traders, especially those working within Mombasa town, went about their businesses undisturbed.

Coast political analyst Hassan Mwakimako, who is an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Pwani University in Kilifi, said the coastal region has, “grown fatigued of never-ending Raila’s demonstrations".

“The people in Mombasa and the coastal region at large have realised that it is meaningless to go into the streets. Whether they demonstrate or not, they will lose anyway and people are now fatigued of participating in the demonstrations,” Mwakimako said.

In an interview with the Star, Mwakimako said former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s absence could also be a factor as to why Mombasa did not experience any demonstration.

“However, the main reason why Mombasa was calm is because of the realisation that everything has a finality and elections were concluded and the Supreme Court upheld Ruto’s victory,” he said.

Joho, who is ODM deputy party leader, has been out of the country for several months now. He has never attended any of the Raila’s nationwide People’s Baraza rallies that had been planned ahead of Monday’s demonstration.

 “We are peaceful people, but if Joho was around, we would have seen some protests, I think the current leadership is peaceful,” said one of the Mombasa residents interviewed by the Star.

Professor Yakobo Mutiti, Associate Professor of Languages and Literature, said the Coast region is "silently following on Raila's street demonstrations".

"I have spoken to the majority of the locals and their sentiments are that they have stayed at home in solidarity with Raila. They have not gone into the streets, but they are strongly behind the opposition," Mutiti said.

Mombasa Governor Nassir, who two weeks ago had welcomed Raila to the Coast region for the People’s Baraza rally in Mombasa and Kilifi County, later Monday evening issued a statement condemning the arrest of the Coast leaders in Nairobi.

“As a leader, I am deeply dismayed and disappointed at the reckless acts of violence reported against peaceful protesters including Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga, Martha Karua, Stephen Musyoka and others,” Nassir said.

Nassir, who was not present in the Nairobi street demonstrations, said  lobbying of teargas and use of water cannons to disperse a peaceful assembly of people translated as an act of aggression against citizens.

“The authorities should not mistake the absence of conflict to mean that the nation is at peace. The rule of law must be upheld and every citizen, no matter their stature, must be protected by the very same security agencies as they exercise their rights,” Nassir said.

At the same time, rights activists in the region said they are following up on the state of affairs in the country after the protests on Monday.

Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid said they are disturbed by the news of arrests and shootings and are calling for calm and order.

“While exercising constitutional freedoms, citizens must act responsibly. At the same time, we are urging the police to exercise restraint and refrain from using unnecessary force,” Khalid said.

He said they have officers distributed across the country including Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa to monitor the human rights situation.

“Any incident of criminality or violation of the law on the part of citizens or police will be documented for purposes of ensuring justice,” Khalid said.

(Edited by V. Graham).

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