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December 09, 2018

KATANA: Ruto's 2022 bid divides Coast leaders

After a long silence about the direction Coast politics should take after the March 9 handshake, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has finally made his stand known:  He will not work with Deputy President William Ruto nor support his 2022 presidential bid. 

Instead, Joho will work with Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, the Kanu national chairman and other “like-minded” leaders. 

Joho’s disclosures will divide Coast politics into two major camps — one fronted by the Mombasa governor and the other spearheaded by dissenting MPs, who have already expressed support for Ruto.  These MPs — the majority of them from ODM — are drawn from all the six counties of the Coast.  They also enjoy the unsolicited support from governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta). Governors Fahim Twaha (Lamu) and Dhadho Godhana (Tana River) are yet to pronounce their stand.

From this stand point, Joho can be viewed as a lone ranger among the county bosses. 

However, he has had the support from half a dozen MPs, among them Likoni’s  Mishi Mboko, Changamwe’s Omar Mwinyi, Mvita’s Abdulswamad Ali, Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, Woman Representative Asha Hussein and her Kwale counterpart,  Zuleikha Juma Hassan.   Only Ganze’s Teddy Mwambire has vacillated over the issue. 

Last week he called his protesting colleagues “traitors,” only to reverse his rhetoric as he crouches towards the Ruto camp.

Among other things the Ruto camp has demanded is the Coast has to be in government now and in the future, which some of them say Ruto will head.   The rationale is that being in government will attract development in their constituencies.  Some of these MPs, such as Malindi’s Aisha Jumwa and her Mswambeni counterpart Suleiman Dori, have declared support for Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, irrespective of the threats of sanctions from ODM national leadership. 

Other MPs in this group are asking for the formation of a homegrown coastal party, citing years opposition fatigue.       

In Kwale, these past two weeks, the rebel MPs asked Joho to join them or render himself irrelevant.  That threat was meant to isolate Joho, if he refused to toe the line he has now bolted. 

As old alliances break down and new ones emerge, the Coast is yet to see a political transformation towards 2022.  At home, the emerging political divide is between Joho on the one hand, and Kingi, Mvurya and Samboja, on the other.   Outside the Coast, this political divide translates into support for Raila Odinga and Gideon Moi, on one hand, and Ruto on the other.  

The effects are already being felt.  The old Joho-Kingi alliance is tearing apart. The Ruto group vows that the Coast region will “never again be in the opposition” and they have rejected Joho’s presidential bid as “untenable.”  

On his part, Joho has vowed to frustrate Ruto in his endeavors to penetrate the Coast.

What can be said for sure is that the emerging political drift, left unchecked, has the potential of upsetting ODM’s chances in 2022.  This would be devastating for a party that has monopolised Coast elections since 2007.   The new alliances can also isolate Joho and threaten his grip on regional politics. This should be particularly so if the rebel MPs could induce a bloc vote from their respective counties in 2022.

In the meantime, however, Joho calls the shots. 

Furthermore, Coast politicians are unpredictable. If push comes to shove, they change colours for self-survival like the proverbial chameleon does.    Some of the MPs supporting Ruto still owe direct allegiance to ODM, Joho and Raila.  They know renouncing the party at this time may lead to fresh elections that would spell doom to their careers. 

In Coast people vote parties not personalities, and the popular party is ODM.

This means despite the threats and protests, Joho is still politically relevant, and he will remain so until the alternative is found.

Nevertheless, this is not something Joho should crow about: He certainly needs to re-invent himself to counter the emerging challenges.   He has hard choices to make, if his political career is to be secured after 2022.  In other words, he must hit or miss.  

The choice is this:  Joho must own a political party by 2022, failure to which his political career should be considered doomed.  History can hardly go wrong.  In the post-Independence period, we have had leaders who had every opportunity to lead the Coast.   Unfortunately, they rose and fell with time.  Recent examples include Katana Ngala, Najib Balala, Gideon Mung’aro and Francis Baya, among many others who failed the Coast.

The current crop of politicians on the rise should not follow suit.  The Coast is desperately in need of at least one unifying leader and a viable political party to match.   I met with Ronald Ngala at Parliament buildings in Nairobi, over lunch, when I was a student.  That was in 1970, two years before he died in car accident. 

Speaking before a group of Coast MPs, Ngala said in Giryama, his mother tongue, that “Nyumba hatha kala ni mbidzo ela si yako, kaina uthana.” “No matter how comfortable a house should be, there is no pride if it does not belong to you.”  In November 1964, Ngala had reluctantly dissolved his own opposition Kadu party to join the Kanu government, as a Cabinet minister.  But, he had been uncomfortable in somebody else’s house.   

Since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1991, the Coast region has operated from a party and leadership vacuum.  Our politicians have thrived in the comfort of other people’s political parties. Who will lead the Coast? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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