It’s a cat-and-mouse game as Joho and Kingi fight for Coast

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (right) consuts with his counterpart from Mombasa Hassan Ali Joho (left).
Barely a week after Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi met a host of Coast MPs, his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Ali Joho has convened his own meeting with MCAs from across the region.

The happenings appeared to be a tit-for-tat that was spiraling out of control until ODM party leader Raila Odinga intervened when he hosted the two governors in Nairobi last week. Initially, Joho had invited the MCAs to Mombasa on Friday, a meeting that was called off after the Raila meeting.

Joho’s camp claims the Friday meeting was called off to enable MCAs from Tana River and Lamu to attend, but some in Kingi’s camp claim they had not been invited to Friday’s meeting.

Independent decisions

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And as if to prove a point, Kingi hosted MCAs in Kilifi the same day. Idris Abdulrahaman from the Mombasa governor’s office said Joho’s meeting with MPs and Members of County Assembly (MCAs) was pushed to Wednesday to allow “proper planning”.

Last Saturday, Kingi whose commitment to ODM appears to weaken by the day, assembled 21 Coast legislators including many allied to DP William Ruto, raising speculation about who was the real force behind the meeting.

Significantly, Kingi read a statement warning ODM not to punish pro-Ruto MPs Suleiman Dori of Msambweni and Aisha Jumwa of Malindi. A pensive Kingi took no questions when addressing journalists after the meeting amid reports that he was coerced by pro-Ruto MPs to reprimand ODM as a precondition to attending last week’s meeting.

“Despite any differences he might have with Joho, Kingi is still loyal to Raila,” said an official in Kingi’s camp who asked not to be named as if to confirm speculation that the Kilifi governor is not keen to humiliate the ODM leader who is also still popular in Coast. The official says Kingi only wants to “make his own independent decisions without command from anywhere.”

According to Idris, Joho’s meeting with MCAs is a platform for the governor to explain the nature and scope of the Building Bridges Initiative.

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Joho and Kingi played a big role in rallying the Coast region behind Raila Odinga’s ODM in the 2013 and 2017 polls and remained close into early 2018 when they both launched a secession bid. They, however, appear to have drifted apart.

Kingi is now welded to the idea of launching a Coast-centric political party, an idea Joho is not amused with.

Kingi claims no animus against Joho, but like Ruto has been less enthusiastic about the March 9 handshake between Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kingi’s condition for supporting the handshake is that Uhuru implements the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report, a line that has, curiously been adopted by Ruto’s ally Aden Duale.

Different lenses

“This handshake makes no meaning to us unless the TJRC report is implemented,” said Kingi early this year.

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Joho on the other hand appears to have drawn close to Uhuru and some powerful luminaries like Senator Gideon Moi and even Tourism CS Najib Balala, a further indication that the two governors, erstwhile allies who have both declared interest in the presidency in 2022, are now seeing the future in different lenses as they embark on their last terms.

Despite his warming of relations with Uhuru, Joho has no time for Ruto whom he slammed last month for “poaching” ODM MPs from Coast with a warning that “do not think you are so smart. We will work with your rivals.”

But Kingi’s call for a Coast-centric party appears to rattle Joho who wants to use ODM to contest in 2022.

Some analysts believe the problem between the two appears to be based on ego and a desire by both to create enough clout for their political future. On one hand, it is believed to be a struggle between ethnic Miji Kenda against Mombasa based tycoons/non Miji Kenda, although both deny playing the tribe and race cards.

The truth is more complex because the so called Mombasa tycoons always do not act in unison and often fight one another. Although Joho is largely acceptable in urban Coast, Kingi faces a daunting task to extend his influence beyond his rural, and largely, a socio-cultural homogeneous Kilifi base.

Some analysts also believe Ruto is keen to widen the split between Joho and Kingi by attacking the Mombasa governor. Still, Kwale appears to be a hard nut to crack for Kingi and Joho. Kingi is yet to entrench there despite his growing ties with Dori and other pro-Ruto MPs.

Analysts are, however, divided over the influence of the ODM rebels now under Kingi’s command but agree that it is a show of Kingi’s growing intentions and appetite to break out of Kilifi and seek acceptability across Coast. “It is clear that Kingi appears to believe that Kilifi is under him and now he is stretching out to Kwale and other areas of Coast,” said Mwakimako.

Joho is fiercely opposed by many Mombasa based tycoons keen to clip his business and political empires but, comparatively, has an edge over Kingi on the national stage due to his wide appeal in opposition areas across Kenya.  

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Kilifi Governor Amason KingiHassan Ali JohoRaila Odinga