In my column a fortnight ago, I made a plea to ODM leader Raila Odinga to intervene to stop Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa’s expulsion. The article elicited interesting reactions, most notably from a friend from Kilifi county,
He said while he agreed I raised valid points by making reference to Raila’s expertise as a peacemaker and that he should put those skills to use in Jumwa’s case, the Coast was tired of always begging. Kenga said, “Shouldn’t we be more aggressive? Shouldn't we demand that Jumwa be accorded the respect she has earned due to her fierce support for ODM over the years?”
Indeed, the Coast is a stakeholder in ODM and if its people are considered beggars in the party, they will probably leave and shift their support to the newly formed Umoja Summit Party of Kenya, a national political party that seeks to unite the Coast region and field its own presidential candidate.
The Coast has been marginalised since Independence and many residents feel they have been reduced to beggars in the political, economic and social arena. Veteran politicians such as Chirau Mwakwere have fought for the inclusion of the Coast in all arenas that matter. The former Transport minister complained that the Coast was viewed as an afterthought. The ‘Zipapa, zipapa (big shark, big shark)’ slogan-chanting former minister would repeat his call for the Coast to be accorded due respect as a powerful vote bloc whenever he got the chance.
The need to unite the Coast and give it clout when negotiating for the region’s interests has led to the formation of different political outfits through the years, including Shirikisho Party, which was led by Mwakwere, Kadu Asili, Chama cha Uzalendo and Republican Congress of Kenya.
Although the parties were not fully able to achieve the envisioned unity at the Coast, hope has been reignited with the formation of the Umoja Summit Party of Kenya. Indeed, the three million vote rich bloc cannot be ignored by any candidate eyeing the presidency.
Jumwa is a fearless, courageous and bold leader. She is able to speak her mind and fight for the interests and grievances of the Coast people to be addressed. Everyone is riding on her back because she says the things people are afraid to say.
Jumwa even went to jail for four days defending and campaigning for Raila in 2017. She was locked up along with three other ODM leaders — Timothy Bosire, Junet Mohamed and Florence Mutua — over hate speech allegations.
The politics of grievances has worked to earn politicians support across Kenya, the Coast included. Jumwa has proven she will fight for the region’s interests and that makes her appealing. Raila himself has used the politics of grievances and it has won him support at the Coast.
In December 2012 when he was Prime Minister, Raila formed a commission to look into the historical injustices that had been meted out against Coast residents. Fast-forward to 2018, after the historic handshake between Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta, historical injustices are one of the points to be addressed by the Building Bridges Initiative committee.
Historical injustices are a big issue at the Coast as poor residents have on several occasions found themselves displaced from their own land. Tycoons have been known to grab land and have bulldozers descend on land unannounced and throw out residents, often with no compensation because many did not have titles. Therefore, when Raila pledged to deal with the issue, he was supported.
Coast residents support Raila, not because of who he is, but because they believe he can address their interests, which include resolving historical land injustices. If he, however, shows the Coast that its interests are not his interests, but rather a means to climb the ladder, then residents are ready to go for a by-election and Jumwa is sure to win back her seat, regardless of which party ticket she runs on.
At the Coast, residents fiercely defend Jumwa and it would not be easy to wipe her out of the political scene. For the Coast, it doesn’t matter which party ticket she runs — she could even run as an independent candidate and win.
The Coast has suffered marginalisation and discrimination since Independence. From the region being left out of political and economic participation, to inequitable distribution of resources and bearing the brunt of insecurity, there are now many at the Coast who are arguing that maybe it is in Jumwa that they will find the bold and unifying figure that they have been craving all along.
It would, therefore, be in the best interest of ODM and Jumwa to reconcile and move forward.
Naomi Cidi is the interim Secretary General, USPK