The State has withdrawn armed police security from governors Amason Kingi of Kilifi and Hassan Joho of Mombasa less than 36 hours of their withering attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta who is visiting the Coast.
This happened even as it emerged that the government has also issued a stern warning to police officers escorting governors in chase cars and clearing roads for them at the expense of other road users.
State officials were yet to disclose the reason for the sudden changes by yesterday evening, but sources indicated the officers were removed for failing to provide reliable intelligence on the two governors to the state, including not alerting or anticipating Joho and Kingi’s recent attacks on the President.
Yesterday, Kingi did not accompany the President to a funeral ceremony at Msabaha in his county, a sign of worsening relations between the two governors and the Jubilee regime. At Vipingo in Kilifi, Kingi told journalists that two armed policemen posted to guard his residence in Kilifi town were “withdrawn last night and four who are attached to me as bodyguards were ordered to surrender their weapons to the nearest police station.”
It also emerged that another three Administration Police officers guarding Joho’s residence were also withdrawn at 9.30pm on Friday. They have been redeployed to Nairobi and Mombasa.
In a strong-worded memo signed by Deputy Inspector General of Police King’ori Mwangi, the government warned that stern action, including interdiction, will be applied on officers who disobey the directive.
“Police headquarters has noted with a lot of concern that police vehicles and police officers are escorting county governments officials across the country and sometimes clearing roads for them at the expense and inconvenience of other road users. This must never occur again. Regional coordinators are directed to take severe disciplinary action against any such rogue officers, including interdiction,” reads part of the memo.
But Kingi accused Jubilee of reigniting last year’s harassment of him and Joho.
“We do not know what has transpired again that the Jubilee government has decided to withdraw our bodyguards at this time when we are nearing the election,” said Kingi, who questioned the State’s intention.
“The same thing happened last year and we do not know the intention of the Jubilee government,” he said.
In a public display of frosty relations between the CORD and Jubilee coalitions, Joho clashed with Uhuru at a function in Mombasa on Thursday. He sparked an angry exchange from the President’s allies led by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro and arch-rival Hezron Awiti Bolo (Nyali MP) when he accused the President and the national government of launching and taking credit for development projects launched before it came to power in 2013.
Tension between the two sides was evident from the morning when Joho skipped the President’s first function, the launch of Mombasa’s first foot bridge in the Buxton area of the coastal city and instead sent his deputy Hazel Katana.
It was the President’s first public function outside State House following his arrival in Mombasa about two weeks ago.
On Friday, Kingi also accused the President of planning to “hijack” a Sh2.3 billion water project he launched as a local MP several years ago and declare it a Jubilee achievement. According to Kingi, the Sh2.3 billion Baricho Lot Two Water Project is being financed by the World Bank which credited loans to the Malindi Water and Sewerage Company (Mawasco) and the Kilifi Mariakani Water and Sewerage Company (Kimawasco) both under the Kilifi County Government.
“The project that the President wants to come and launch was conceptualised while I was still the MP for Magarini. Mawasco wanted to supply bulk water from Baricho to Magarini and that was when they approached me to help them. We even pumped into the project Sh25 million from the Magarini CDF kitty for a feasibility study to see whether the project was viable,” said Kingi.
In Mombasa yesterday, several MPs allied to Joho demanded answers from Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and said the two governors were being targeted by the State. Joho is abroad in Ghana where he attended the inauguration of its new President Nana Akufo-Addo yesterday.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir said the removal of the police “shows Jubilee is a cowardly regime” and accused the State of disrespecting “the two governors who were elected by the people.”
It was the second time in less then a year for the State to withdraw security from the two governors considered the vanguard of the opposition at the Coast. The two have been at loggerheads with Jubilee, which they accuse of marginalising the region.
Frosty relations between the President and Joho can be traced back to December 2015 when the governor publicly accused the national government of disrespecting him during presidential functions.
Before that, Joho had clashed with Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa whom he considers the President’s agent against him and county government. Joho has also publicly clashed with Deputy President William Ruto.
Joho and Kingi spearheaded Jubilee’s loss at the March 7, 2016 by-election in Malindi constituency. Following the by-election, the State withdrew the police attached to the governors’ homes and offices and also tried to seize Joho’s licensed firearms.
However, a court outlawed the gazette notice withdrawing Joho’s guns. Last month, a court also ended all the State’s legal actions against them and their security was restored.
Tension between the two governors and the President arose again late last week when Joho and Kingi accused him of hijacking projects initiated by their devolved governments and funded by the World Bank and other donors and declaring them to be Jubilee’s.
Kingi told journalists yesterday that “there was no formal communication from the State”, adding that the action to withdraw the police attached to him happened on Friday evening.
It was not clear how many police guards are deployed on the Mombasa governor, but the MPs who spoke yesterday said all State security men attached to Joho’s office, residence and offices have been either recalled or asked to return their weapons to the General Service Unit (GSU) or Administration Police offices nearest to them.
According to Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba, the action on Joho’s security “began at 1 am and progressed to this morning” and was done without notification to the governor. “Who ordered the withdrawal of the security and what is the intention?” Bedzimba posed, accusing the Jubilee government of deploying police officers as “if the officers are personal property.”
Abdulswamad accused the State of trying to intimidate the two governors and the opposition and warned that Coast leaders would not be silenced. “We have nothing to fear except the almighty God,” Abdulswamad said as Jomvu MP Badi Twalib demanded answers from Nkaissery.
“There is a conspiracy against the governor of Mombasa and we are demanding an explanation from Nkaissery because this cannot happen without his authority,” Badi said.