WHO WILL SPEAK FOR COAST?

Lack of strong Coast party to cost region in 2022

Jubilee Party leaders in the Coast share part of the blame for the lack of participation in the scramble for national political change.

In Summary

• Coast leaders Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, have gone silent.

• They have probably been muzzled by their ODM party and the political system.

Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and Mombasa governor Hassan Joho in Mtwap, Kilifi county, on January 24, 2017.
COAST UNITY: Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and Mombasa governor Hassan Joho in Mtwap, Kilifi county, on January 24, 2017.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Kenya is undergoing a political metamorphosis. Old alliances are fragmenting, new alliances are being born and new parties are on the rise.

The old adage that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics rings true today. In this political transformation, the Jubilee Party is taking the lead. Even though the intended change is the pursuit of fulfilling President Uhuru Kenyatta’s development agenda, the overall effect can be understood in succession politics, which is about Kenya after Uhuru.  

In doing this, Jubilee has sought and won the hearts, support and cooperation from unlikely political parties, notably ODM. Wiper, Kanu and Chama Cha Mashinani have joined the bandwagon and many more are likely to follow suit. At stake in this game of change is the scramble for positions in the Jubilee government and  a foothold in 2022.

 

A key region missing in this scramble is the Coast.

The Coast leaders - who were known for pushing the region’s political, economic and social agenda, such as  Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi - have gone silent. They have probably been muzzled by their ODM party and the political system.

Pleas by diverse communities to have their leaders voice their concerns on thorny issues facing the Coast, including the problems of the Port of Mombasa, have fallen on deaf ears.  

What could explain this silence on the part of Coast leaders?

One possible explanation is that, unlike other regions that have viable political parties to channel their people's collective interests, the Coast doesn’t enjoy this luxury.

[The Umoja Summit Party of Kenya on July 3 told the new Coast Parliamentary Group leaders to seize the opportunity to unite all leaders in the region.]

The other explanation is the lacklustre performance of the Coast Parliamentary Group, which should ideally push the region's political agenda through Parliament.

The implication of the absence of a viable local party is that unless the ODM leadership permits Coast leaders to speak up, they remain silent. 

The wisdom prevailing in this region is that the Coast is heterogeneous and therefore politically unique on cohesion matters.  Our communities and leaders have intentionally ignored the fact that Kenya is one of the most ethnic countries in Africa and parties are formed to serve, first and foremost, local interests because politics is local.

Kenyan parties, like many others in Africa, have no particular ideology to attract cross ethnic groups. Thus, without a strong native, homegrown party, there cannot be meaningful representation at the national level. This is the political dilemma facing the Coast.

When I was growing up in the mid-1960s, Ronald Ngala, the leader of Kadu at the time, remarked that there is no pride or honour in a rented house because despite its allures, terms and conditions apply.

And true to Ngala’s prediction, in the recent past, we have witnessed some leaders from the Coast punished for the allure of other people’s political parties. Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa has had knees pressed down on her neck for criticising ODM's policies toward the Coast. She can’t breathe.

Even Jubilee Party leaders at the Coast share part of the blame for the lack of participation in the scramble for national political change. Gideon Mung’aro, now a Cabinet Administrative Secretary, Jubilee national chairman Nelson Dzuya and Mombasa politician Suleiman Shahbal are the key representatives of the ruling party at the Coast.

They have been the faces of the party in a region politically imbued with nothing but ODM. They have faced all odds in defence of the party agenda, yet in the politico-economic and social crises that need their voices, they have gone quiet. Political dissent has been equated with party disloyalty, or enmity.  

Our leaders are not free to speak up in part because they have no party, or viable parties of their own through which they could channel the region's collective interests at the national level.  

In the two Houses of Parliament, disunity or even apathy has submerged their voices, in part because of the sheer force of majority factional politics, or the tyranny of numbers.

Whither the Coast?  

Pegg Noonan, a speech writer for US President Ronald Reagan, wrote that silence is short-term. Rising to the occasion, taking a chance, making a gamble when everything is going your way but the country needs more, that is long-term wise. And wise always beats shrewd in the end. 

Katana is a political commentator based at the Coast.