Here’s what Uhuru Kenyatta must to do win the Coast

KIlifi residents demonstrate in October last year against the closure of the Kenya Cashew Nuts Factory, demanding its revival and the revocation of a 999-year lease given to an Indian investor. /ALPHONCE GARI
KIlifi residents demonstrate in October last year against the closure of the Kenya Cashew Nuts Factory, demanding its revival and the revocation of a 999-year lease given to an Indian investor. /ALPHONCE GARI

I have been reading Ngunjiri Wambugu’s columns in this newspaper for a long time and, having learned that he is something of a political strategist, I took him very seriously.

Now I see that I was wrong.

For in his most recent column I came across these paragraphs:

Let me start with three uncomfortable truths about Kenya’s Presidential elections.

One, since the introduction of multiparty politics in 1992 the Presidential vote has been decided on tribal lines. The exception was 2002 and was because the two top candidates were from the same ethnic group. Two, each of these elections has been determined by seven tribes, the Kikuyus, Luyhas, Kalenjins, Luos, Kambas, Kisii and Meru, who together make up 75% of Kenya’s population.

Do you see what is missing here? The Coast, of course, which voted very much as a bloc in 2013, and gave Raila Odinga’s ODM roughly 30 MPs, five governors, five senators, and dozens of MCAs.

Indeed, without the Coast, ODM would not now be boasting the most governors of any party.

How could Wambugu have missed this? And since his article was about the likely outcome of the next Presidential election, how could he include the Merus and Kisiis, each of whom have less than a million votes in play, and overlook the unified Coast vote bloc, which may account for close to two million votes by the next election?

Anyway, I am sure that national players like President Uhuru Kenyatta, DP William Ruto, former PM Raila Odinga and former VP Kalonzo Musyoka know better than to ignore the Coast as the woefully inadequately informed Wambugu has done.

And so I address the question: What must the President do to secure the Coast vote bloc, which will be a crucial swing vote in 2017?

I will cut straight to the chase on this hot-potato subject.

Jubilee must first begin the revival of the region’s dead industries – from cashewnuts to milk and cotton to coconuts and mangoes. No administration has tried to do anything for cotton at the Coast.

Then there is the fact historical injustices began at the Coast, the gateway to Kenya. The grabbing of land, mass evictions from ancestral land that in the Mt Kenya region led to Mau Mau, started at the Coast many decades before it occurred in Central Kenya.

I would therefore advise President Kenyatta to bring Sh5 billion of that Sh10 billion historical injustices compensation fund that he has ordered the National Treasury to set up to the Coast and give it to the victims’ survivors. Some of this cash must go into individuals’ pockets and the rest must go into communal projects. This is not a proposed re-invention of the wheel: The British not long ago compensated the Samburu as a community following years of carnage wrought by abandoned BATUK ordnance, including fatalities and injuries.

The suffering of the Samburu began decades after the start of the mass injustices at the Coast and after the Mau Mau State of Emergency.

The Coast is still President Kenyatta’s to win, but for him to secure this victory he must think completely outside the box and deliver in unprecedented ways that were alien to all his predecessors, including his great father.

It is within President Kenyatta’s grasp and clarity of vision and strategy to do things for the Coast for which he will long be remembered and in the process make all of Kenya a better place to live in. The people of the Coast have a long memory, being the first to have encountered the outside world and their marginalization is one of Kenya’s abiding national tragedies. They would never forget the man who lifted them up from this exclusion, disadvantage and relegation.

It is not for nothing that the Coast solemnly renounced opposition politics throughout Kanu’s 39-year-long one-party rule. To win the Coast, a region long used to supporting power incumbents, all President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto need to do is to rollout the Jubilee pledges in a way that is not only unprecedented but also unmistakably indicative of the beginning of the end of marginalization.

They need to attend also to the question of the employment of the Coast’s youth, continue with the issuance of title deeds and set up an Education fund.

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