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February 22, 2019

Sonko shuttle diplomacy brings rivals Joho and Shahbal together

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Jubilee politician Suleiman Shahbal.  / JOHN CHESOLI
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Jubilee politician Suleiman Shahbal. / JOHN CHESOLI

Another handshake, this time between Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Jubilee politician Suleiman Shahbal.

On Tuesday they declared the Dongo Kundu project will be their joint flagship effort.

The rivals declared a truce, put aside some differences and said Coast residents will be better off when they work together.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was central in the deal between Joho, the ODM deputy party leader, and Jubilee’s Shahbal, the Star has learnt.

He was the go-between in the deal and arranged the meetings.

Speaking after a meeting Joho’s office, they said they will push to have the project owned by Kenyans through investment and business deals.

The Sh30 billion project is to link Mombasa Mainland West and Kwale county via Mombasa Mainland South, without entering Mombasa island.

It will open up the South Coast and Mombasa for further business and avoid delays and time lost at the Likoni Ferry channel.

The Sh11 billion Phase One is complete. Phase two, estimated to cost Sh24 billion, started in October last year. It was

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) last year officially opened phase one of the Dongo Kundu Bypass whose construction was launched in July 2016.

It will create a Free Trade Zone, expected to create at least 20,000 jobs for Coast residents.

Shahbal said he will push for Joho include all the other five Coast governors to ensure jobs benefit residents.

“We start that work today,” Shahbal said.

PUSH FOR KENYAN-OWNED PROJECT

Joho said that apart from the Dongo Kundu project, they will identify other priority areas including tourism and the blue economy.

He said they will compare notes from each other’s campaign manifestos and enchance each other’s economic plans.

“Kenya has the capacity to invest and do business. I believe the Free Trade Zone of the Dongo Kundu project should be Kenyan-owned.We have banks that are able to mobilise resources,” the governor said.

Joho said national and county governments have to cooperate to provide support infrastructure and an enabling business environment.

“In a free zone, it is not the government that does business, it’s the people. To move away from the narrative that Coast people are always being pushed around, we must allow our people to be at the forefront to do business.”

Joho and Shahbal’s allies suggested that Sonko be more involved in Coast projects because he has roots in the region and influence in the national government.

“There was a suggestion that he play a greater role in Coast matters, even as he operates from Nairobi,” a source who was at the meeting yesterday told the Star.

Shahbal’s camps says his interest was piqued when Joho offered an olive branch during his Jamhuri Day speech last year.

Sonko has been arranging for meetings since the Christmas period when he camped at the Coast shuttling between Mombasa and Kanamai in Kilifi county.

ENCOURAGE SELF EMPLOYMENT

On Tuesday, Sonko said last year’s March 9 handshake should be cascaded down to the grassroots.

He also offered an olive branch to former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

“We should also work together for the transformation of our city,” the Nairobi governor said.

Joho said there should be a policy in the Coast county governments that protects interests of the people.

“We want to change the mindset of our people so they want the Free Trade Zone and can be employed. We want them to own businesses too there,” he said.

Shahbal said though he differs politically with Joho, they both as pire to help their people prosper in life.“I have come to ask Joho to put all his efforts intoensuring that this project is ours. Let it not be given to other countries to drive.”

The two, however, said their handshake will not mean there will be no criticism of the county government.

“Competition is not necessarily confrontation. I still believe if I don’t agree with some projects or their implementation I will pick up the phone and call the governor,” Shahbal said.

He added, “And if we still completely disagree, we will voice our opinions through the media and let the people of Mombasa decide.”

Joho noted, “The county assembly is mandated to do oversight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together. Suleiman can positively put us in check.”

The two twice battled for the county’s top seat.

Both politicians were accompanied to the meeting by their trusted lieutenants.

Joho had Mohamed Hatimy (nominated MCA), Speaker Aharub Khatri, former Mombasa mayor Ahmed Mohdhar, Mombasa woman representative Asha Mohamed, and former Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba by his side.

Shahbal was accompanied by his lieutenants Janet Mbete, Jubilee Mombasa chair Matano Chengo, Yassir Noor andAhmed Ali.

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