The making of Mombasa governor Hassan Joho

Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho .Photo/Elkana Jacob
Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho .Photo/Elkana Jacob

Politically, Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho is a man on the move. Since the beginning of the year, Joho has worked extra hard to attract attention and to find space in the supremacy of Coast and national politics. He has declared to vie for the presidency in 2022.

If this is true to his word, Joho shall be the third Coast politician to contest the presidency; the other two were the late Coast political supremo, Ronald Ngala in 1963 and Dr. Chibule wa Tsuma, former Kaloleni Constituency legislator in 2002.

Three factors have helped fuel Joho’s rapid rise to national power politics. This January, the

Mombasa Governor openly challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy Wiliam Ruto over the squatter issue at the controversial Waitiki farm in Mombasa. Joho criticized the Jubilee Government for charging the squatters money to settle them on the farm. Joho also complained of being excluded from the President’s official engagements in the County and proclaimed that he was in the ODM opposition party to stay.

The ODM victory in the Malindi by-election worsened Joho’s working relationship with the National Government but also enhanced his political fortunes in the Coast region. Jubilee’s defeat severely diminished the political clout of Joho’s fiercest political rival, Kilifi North Member of Parliament Gideon Mung’aro. Lack has also been on the side of Joho when recently Mung’aro was deprived of his status as Chair of the Coast Parliamentary Group.

The unfolding events surrounding the Malindi by-election and the National Government’s reaction to these developments have only served to propel upwards Joho’s political ambitions.

To be sure, both ODM and Jubilee parties shared the blame in the voter bribing claims. They are also both culpable for the violence that ensued. But it was the stripping naked of Mwanguo Kahonzi, a Malindi woman mother of two, that hastened the Government to take stun action against the alleged perpetrators, whose photographs are hanged on the notice boards of the Malindi Police Station.

As expected, both parties have maintained innocence. But the Government has reacted to this violence by, among other things, reducing Joho’s security detail, threatened to confiscate his guns and charged him, alongside other ODM party leaders, with robbery with violence. The accused have gone to court to prevent their arrest.

Joho, ODM leaders and supporters have called the Government reaction partisan, intimidation and harassment against critics. They have viewed Joho’s open defiance against the system an act of political heroism. For Joho, this intimidation and harassment is a deliberate effort by the Jubilee Government to silence vocal politicians from the Coast region who are articulating the interests of their marginalized communities.

But there are challenges to Joho’s ambitions to ascend to regional politics and onto national power. For starters, Joho must shed off his image as a Mombasa politician and strive to be a Coast politician with tangible support from communities across the Coast region. Joho cannot dream about contesting the presidency if he fails to grasp grassroots support across communities. As of now, the Mombasa Governor has to work extra hard to fill this gap.

He may as well be forced to mull over his links to the ODM party. ODM has its owners who are also the founders eager to vie for the presidency in any given national elections. In the event of a struggle for party supremacy, I do not see Joho winning that struggle. He is simply an outsider.

If Joho really aspires to keep the momentum to lead the Coast and stand for the presidency in 2022, he must consider an alternative path to get there. In Kenya, political parties are formed to cater for regional ethnic interests. No matter how much Joho may be in love with ODM, he is an alien to it. He is therefore unlikely to ascend to regional politics or the presidency through this party.