KATANA: Building Bridges? Not in Coast as leaders jostle for relevance in 2022

Coast MPs Aisha Jumwa,Shakila Abdalla,Mishi Mboko,Khatib Mwashetani and Suleiman Dori . file
Coast MPs Aisha Jumwa,Shakila Abdalla,Mishi Mboko,Khatib Mwashetani and Suleiman Dori . file

If 2018 was the year of building bridges, the Coast region missed it.

This was a year of unfulfilled promises, failed alliances and political misfortunes.

The only credit I could give to the handshake last year is cooling down political temperature.

On other matters, however, the post-handshake period changed nothing in the Coast.

As an opposition zone, we have sat and watched as political appointments and selections in the national government passed by us.

Not even the political parties that we voted overwhelmingly for in 2017, notably, ODM, cared to share political positions with the region.

The Coast remained marginalised.

In some ways, the region also marginalised itself.

Prospects for economic prosperity under devolution have waned, turning hope to despair.

The sensuous and sensitive cessation issues stalled or ended with the handshake; and the much-touted Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani regional economic bloc is yet to take off.

External factors also contributed to the region’s misery last year.

In the name of dry ports upcountry, the Port of Mombasa was stripped of some of its essential services, denying coastal communities of business and employment opportunities.

This 2018 gloomy picture was epitomised by the mass failures of our children in primary and secondary national examinations.

The post-handshake culminated into political divisions and elusive alliances.

The search for a viable party that had dominated regional politics didn’t materialise. Instead, local leaders found themselves jostling for space and positions in the established parties — ODM and Jubilee — for political relevance in 2022.

In fulfilling this goal, loyalties to individual politicians took the upper hand.

The beneficiary of this jostling and positioning has been Deputy President William Ruto, whose 2022 presidential bid has politically divided the Coast down the middle. The other beneficiary, as it has always been, was ODM leader Raila Odinga.

As we enter 2019, Ruto and Raila will continue to dominate Coast politics, especially if the latter decides to run for President.

Also, as a swing region, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi, Kanu’s Baringo senator Gideon Moi, and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka will seek inroads into the Coast.

We should expect the political battle within the ODM to continue in the Coast.

The intra-party revolt is a result of some ODM MPs directly professing their political loyalty to Ruto, to the chagrin of the ODM leadership that has recommended disciplinary actions against two of the revolting MPs, Malindi’s Aisha Jumwa and Musambweni’s Duleiman Dori.

Have publicly supported Ruto’s presidential bid.

There are at least four options open to the ODM’s national disciplinary committee.

Jumwa and Dori could be warned, pardoned, suspended, or at worst, expelled from the party.

There has been a lot of disquiet against taking disciplinary actions against the duo.

Some of the revolting ODM MPs, among them, Kilifi North MP Owen Baya, have read malice in the matter.

Last year, Kilifi governor Amason Kingi convened a meeting of some ODM MPs during which they disapproved of any disciplinary actions against Jumwa and Dori.

If ODM decides to expel the two and by-elections called, the outcome will have unprecedented impact on the future of the party in the region.

The defeat of ODM will not only destroy the party but also mark the downfall of Raila as the preferred presidential candidate.

Conversely, a win will continue to uphold the supremacy of ODM as the party of choice and boost Raila’s presidential chances if he chooses to run again.

Whatever decisions ODM will take in respect of Jumwa and Dori will have a domino effect across regional politics.

Despite the political, economic and social misfortunes that befell the Coast last year, including the unsolved murder of former Kilifi Deputy Governor Kenneth Kamto, there is hope for renewal in the New Year. Native coastal communities should take advantage of the impending constitutional amendment — I don’t call it a referendum because the width of the issues to be addressed has not yet been defined — to reassert themselves in national politics and brace for real change.

Any amendments to the Constitution should reflect the interests of communities on matters that are closer to them — land redistribution and equal opportunities in the national government appointments and services.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and coastal communities must, of necessity, vote to shape their destiny through it.

But this can only happen through a deliberate political unity of purpose that has eluded the Coast for decades.

The absence of a viable political party and a strong leader to unify the region has been our Achilles’ heel.

Anyone who will change this in 2019 and beyond?