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GUBERNATORIAL WARS

Inside battle to succeed Joho, Kingi and Mvurya

Joho, Mvurya and Kingi are serving their last terms in office.

In Summary

• Joho has declared he is moving on to national politics after his term ends in 2022, seeking a position in the national government.

• In Kwale, Governor Salim Mvurya has endorsed his deputy Fatuma Achani to succeed him, while Kilifi's Kingi is now seen to be leaning more towards Mung’aro than any other candidate.

Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi) in Mombasa
Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi) in Mombasa
Image: GPPS

The retirement of the Coast's three most influential governors in 2022 has thrown the battle for the counties' top job wide open with new entrants already jostling for votes.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Kilifi’s Amason Kingi and Kwale’s Salim Mvurya are all serving their second and last terms but their political shadows will loom large in their succession battles.

Joho, who is the ODM deputy party leader, remains  influential in Mombasa and his political direction will have an impact on the contest.  So far, at least six people have expressed interest to succeed him.

 

Curiously, all of them are connected to him in one way of another.

They include his close ally Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, his foe-turned-friend businessman Suleiman Shahbal, Deputy Governor William Kingi and his former critic Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo.

Also in the race is Joho’s friend-turned-foe and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Oma, and his former PA and county secretary Francis Thoya.

Shahbal has since February formed a working partnership with Joho, setting aside their political differences and following in the spirit of the Handshake.

The two worked closely in cushioning Mombasa residents from the effects of Covid-19, donating food, establishing sanitisation booths, and creating job opportunities for youth, among other measures.

Last year, Mbogo also put aside his differences with the governor and started attending his functions as he heaped praise on Joho, who also represented Kisauni constituency in Parliament. However, on Monday, Joho let people in on his preferred successor.

“I have finished my first and second terms. I must now go to national politics so that Abdulswamad and the likes continue with this work,” Joho said at Treasury Square.

 

This may be interpreted as an ‘endorsement’ of the Mvita MP, whose work in his constituency has endeared him to residents. His two elections in Mvita have been landslide victories.

Now he is going for a higher seat and should Joho back him, it will be significant for his chances.

Curiously, Joho’s vague ‘endorsement’ of Nassir was at almost the same time Shahbal was being endorsed by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who was in Mombasa to meet paty delegates.

“There is another brother here whom you know. He won the governorship in 2013, Hon Shahbal, who will be governor unopposed this time,” Kalonzo declared Monday.

It's telling that Kalonzo endorsed Shahbal, yet there is a Wiper MP in Mombasa seeking the party’s ticket for the seat.

This did not go down well with Mbogo and his camp who see Shahbal as an outsider who ran away from the party after his defeat by Joho in 2013. Shahbal vied for the seat on a Wiper ticket.

He later ditched the party for Jubilee through which he again ran for the seat, falling behind Joho in 2017.

Mbogo believes his vast Kisauni constituency, which has at least 200,000 votes, will propel him to victory. He has been campaigning at the grassroots, meeting small-scale businessmen, youth and women.

Rattled by Shahbal’s association with Kalonzo, he quickly sought to show his might at the Wiper delegates' meeting at Wild Waters Complex, thronged by his supporters. He accused Shahbal of scheming to wreak havoc in Wiper.

“We will not allow a few people jumping here and there to bring chaos in the party,” Mbogo said.

“Shahbal is not a Wiper member, so I don’t count him. We know he is a Jubilee member. So we don’t have two camps in Wiper Mombasa. We have only one.”

But Shahbal, who has also been criticised by Omar over the Buxton Housing Project, which the businessman is developing through a company associated with him, maintains he is not desperate to be governor but to help Mombasa people.

The career banker has been frequently visiting ODM leader Raila Odinga’s office in Nairobi in what political observers say is seeking his blessings to succeed Joho.

Mombasa is perceived to be an ODM stronghold and an endorsement by Raila is almost a sure bet. Raila has supported Shahbal in the Buxton Housing Project to rebuild dilapidated houses.

Omar, who is allied to embattled Deputy President William Ruto, has been trying to take advantage of the Ruto wave in the country to position himself as a defender of the poor, who form majority of the voters.

It is this percentage that Omar, who has been having youth projects at his Renaissance Centre office in Mombasa, is eyeing.

Kingi has not been actively campaigning to succeed his boss but has been with him in most of his functions, filling in for him whenever he is unavailable.

Thoya, whose tenure as county secretary saw him amass significant followers and supporters was seen as a threat to Joho’s succession plans. He was effectively fired as the county secretary to tame him.

He has since landed a job with one of the UN agencies, overseeing the Coastal region. His appeal to the native Coastal community of the Mijikenda saw his stature rise significantly and political commentators say he will be a force to reckon with should he decide to go for the seat with his full might.

Campaigns, however, require a huge war chest and Shahbal’s deep pockets may play a significant role in propelling him to power.

KWALE COUNTY

In Kwale, Governor Salim Mvurya has endorsed his deputy, Fatuma Achani to succeed him.

However, the political matrix is largely community based, with the Digo and the Duruma, who are part of the Mijikenda, and the Kamba communities playing a significant role in determining who wins the top seat.

Last Thursday, Mvurya said a few people have been trying to divide Kwale residents on tribal grounds.

“We hear there are groups being formed. There is one called Utsi, which has been formed on a tribal basis.

“Going forward, we don’t want to hear people being segregated as the Kamba, the Digo, the Duruma or the Kikuyu. Development does not recognise tribe. It is for everyone. Let us shun these groups,” Mvurya said.

He said campaigns should be based on development records.

The Digo and the Duruma are the two most populous communities in Kwale.

It is believed that in 2013, there was a political agreement between the Digo and the Duruma that the Digo, Achani's community, should support Mvurya, a Duruma. And when the time comes, Mvurya and the Duruma will support Achani to succeed him.

"If you want to continue enjoying the fee bursaries and endless development projects, then choose Achani," Mvurya sings at his functions and rallies.

However, Achani faces stiff competition from Lunga-Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, speaker Sammy Ruwa, former Knut chairman Mudzo Nzili, Chai Lung'anzi, Prof Hamadi Boga, among others.

Ruwa was trounced by Mvurya in 2017. He has said he has learnt from his previous mistakes and has a lot of influence on the people.

"I couldn't be vying again if I wasn't sure that I was going to win," he said.

Observers say Mwashetani and Boga pose the biggest threat to Achani.

Political analyst Richard Osongo said if Achani is not careful, one among the two could possibly outweigh her in the governor race.

He said Ruwa's impact is not felt by the community and he has to add more pressure to reign in the gubernatorial battle.

"The speaker has to tighten up if he is to remain in the contest," he said.

Osongo said in terms of parties, ODM has great followers in Kwale compared to others.

But he said Kwale people do not vote based on parties but look at a specific person and one's development record.

In 2013, Mvurya won the seat through ODM and did so via Jubilee in 2017.

KILIFI

The e return to ODM of Lands CAS Gideon Mung’aro has scuttled the political cards for Kilifi North MP Owen Baya. Baya is touted as the most likely successor to Governor Amason Kingi.

However, his association with Ruto and his suspension from the ODM National Executive Council has given Mung’aro a sigh of relief as he schemes to get the party ticket.

Mung’aro has in recent times been seen in the company of Joho and Raila.

Mung’aro contested the Kilifi governorship on a Jubilee ticket in 2017 after falling out with Kingi, who is the ODM chairman in Kilifi.

“Mung’aro should brace for a rude shock in 2022 even if I do not get the ODM ticket. My strategy does not only focus on the party but what I have in store for the people.

“When you worship a political party you will dance to the tune of that party but when you have the people you will meet their needs,” Baya said.

Mung’aro said he is an ODM life member and he has never left the party.

Kingi is now seen to be leaning more towards Mung’aro than any other candidate. This is after his earlier plan to push his brother, the Magarini MP Michael Kingi, met resistance.

Another notable candidate is Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who has also shown interest in the seat.

Jumwa has declared she will floor all the men who will come her way in the race.

Her ambitions are, however, being hindered by the ongoing court cases she is facing.