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Chirau Ali Mwakwere meets Raila as he eyes Kwale governorship on ODM ticket

By Patrick Beja and Tobias Chanji | Published Fri, December 9th 2016 at 00:00, Updated December 8th 2016 at 21:40 GMT +3
Chirau Ali Mwakwere during a past function. He has announced his intention to vie for Kwale gubernatorial seat in next year's polls. [Photo: File]

Outspoken Coast politician and diplomat Chirau Ali Mwakwere yesterday met Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, signalling intentions to defect to the opposition party.

Chirau met Raila, ODM deputy party leader Hassan Ali Joho and other leaders from the Coast at a Nairobi hotel yesterday.

Raila confirmed the meeting, terming it as one between old friends.

"It was a meeting of old friends where we exchanged pleasantries," he said.

But Mwakwere's close ally Simeon Mkalla, a former MP for Kinango, said the former Cabinet Minister had indeed defected and will be vying for Kwale gubernatorial seat in next year's polls. Mkalla also revealed he will be Mwakwere's running mate.

Mwakwere's move is a big win for the Orange party after Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya moved to Jubilee coalition.

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Sources indicate the defection has been long in coming following at least two meetings between Mwakwere, Raila and Joho, including one during the celebrations in Mombasa marking 10 year's of ODM's founding.

Mwakwere who vied for the Kwale senatorial seat on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket against Boy Juma Boy of ODM was conspicuously omitted from the recently published Jubilee presidential campaign team, sparking speculation in local political circles.

He has taken a low profile since he lost the Kwale senatorial race, but his defection to ODM could signal the rejuvenation of his political life.

The defection to ODM would be the second time Raila and Mwakwere are joining forces.

In 2002, both were founder members of the defunct Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the run-up to that year's election which Kanu lost to the Opposition.

A source privy to the meeting disclosed to The Standard that Mwakwere will formally be ditching Jubilee come January next year.

"There was no need to rush as more people are coming and therefore the need to push it to January," said the source who added that the envoy "has confirmed that he is joining ODM because he knows where the future of the nation is headed".

Clear indication

Mwakwere recently gave a clear indication he could not rule out any possibility of working with ODM.

"People change parties even five times a year and it is not newsworthy. You can even move parties daily. I have been in almost eight political parties," said Mwakwere.

Mwakwere, 71, who contested on URP ticket garnered 41,753 votes against Mr Boy's 60,886 votes is considered a political heavyweight in the Kwale political landscape.

The controversial politician had challenged Mr Boy's election but the petition was dismissed by Justice Fred Ochieng leading to a political lull before he was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta as high commissioner to Tanzania about two years ago.

Mwakwere made his political debut in 2002 when he became a key member of LDP, less than three months before the General Election.

LDP then absorbed all the Kanu rebels then morphed into the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) on whose ticket Mwakwere was elected  Matuga MP.

Popularly known as ambassador Mwakwere, he served as Cabinet minister in the ministries of Labour, Foreign Affairs, Transport, Trade and Environment during President Mwai Kibaki's regime between 2003 and 2013.

The man, whose political mobilising call had been "Dzipapa Dzipapa" (the great shark), had in 2010 run into political trouble when he lost both the Matuga parliamentary seat and the Transport docket after losing an election petition filed by a voter Mr Ayub Mwakesi over irregularities cited in the 2007 general election when he run against current Matuga MP Hassan Mwanyoha.

He, however, bounced back and was reapointed Trade Cabinet minister and later Environment and Natural Resources.

In 2007, Mwakwere took over Coast based Shirikisho Party of Kenya (SPK) but surprised friend and foe when he contested on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket and abandoned Shirikisho after the polls.

He has also been a senior member of the Coast Kaya council after being anointed in the sacred forests several times.