In October last year, I wrote about why ODM deputy leader and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho all of a sudden became a vicious enemy of Jubilee. I explained how his onslaughts against the ruling party, his support for opposition political forays various parts of the country, and scathing personalised attacks on President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto were, and still are, all about him protecting his political base in Mombasa.
Coast is one of those interesting political environments where deep poverty co-exists with massive wealth. The region most probably has the highest number of multi-billionaires in the country per square kilometre. On the other hand, the region also has the majority of extremely poor people, with certain regions dependant on government relief year in year out.
Unfortunately, the majority poor tend to be what we refer to as ‘indigenous’ communities — those who trace their historical roots within the region. The people with wealth on the other hand tend to be the ‘newcomers’ — people who relocated to the region from other parts of the country, mainly to set up businesses and trade. Of the six counties of the region, Mombasa county is the best representation of this reality.
Since the average Kenyan politician is generally lazy and prefers to use the lowest possible form of political mobilisation strategy available to campaign for office, politics at the Coast has over the years been defined by the victimhood narrative. Over the past 20 years, especially the most popular politicians in the region — and especially in Mombasa — have been those who have sold the narrative that the reason so many local people are poor is because ‘outsiders’ have come in and taken all the opportunities that would have been available to the local communities. They have also sold the narrative that the reason there is no development is because the national government belongs to the‘others’, not those from the region. Coast politics has therefore always been about getting one of ‘us’ into power to protect ‘us’ from ‘them’.
Then devolution happened. Today, Mombasa receives over Sh10 billion every year — Sh5 billion from local revenue collection, and slightly over Sh5 billion from the Treasury. The narrative that it is other people’s fault that Mombasa is not developing is therefore hard to sell. But Joho is still at it.
On January 2 this year, Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar accused Joho of ‘massive theft’. He claimed that Joho’s administration is unable to account for over Sh1 billion, allegedly used to pay for garbage collection over the past four years.
“They have defrauded us through a garbage collection system that is not working and enriched themselves whereas the county is still dirty,” Omar claimed. Joho responded by using his usual ‘we’ versus ‘them’ narrative, and threw a tantrum accusing the Jubilee administration of harassing him by changing his security detail. Senator Omar was, however, having none of it and he accused the governor of orchestrating the VIP bodyguards crisis to deflect attention from corruption and poor service delivery in Mombasa.
Joho knows he has a problem with how he has spent county funds. However, he believes he can use the old narrative that it is the fault of ‘those people’ who have been harassing ‘us’ so much that ‘we’ have not been able to do anything for Mombasa residents. And it might have worked — were it not for locals and leaders such as Senator Omar. He is doing well at challenging the governor’s narrative that his failures in Mombasa are because he was fighting against Uhuru’s harassment. Omar is telling Mombasa residents that Joho has received Sh10 billion for each of the past five years, money Uhuru has no control over, and asking, Where has it gone?
Let me also ask, what have you done with all this money, Governor 001?