The race to succeed Kwale governor Salim Mvurya has entered the homestretch with six contestants eyeing the seat and promising to change the fortunes of a county endowed with natural resources but reeling in poverty.
Mvurya, who is serving his final term in office, remains a key factor in the race, leading campaigns for his deputy Fatuma Achani who he hopes will succeed him on August 9.
The governor, who is also in charge of Deputy President William Ruto’s campaign in the Coast, says he is supporting Achani so that she can secure his legacy.
The rivals of Achani, who is running on Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, are working overtime to discredit her candidature.
Achani is the only deputy governor from the region to have maintained a good working relationship with her boss since they were elected in 2013.
She is up against former Matuga MP Chirau Ali Mwakwere of the Wiper party. Speaker Sammy Nyamawi Ruwa, who is an independent candidate, and Kanu’s Daniel Gereza Dena have also been cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to run for the seat.
ODM’s Hamadi Iddi Boga and Lung’anzi Chai Mangale of Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) may be newcomers in the political field but have vowed to give Achani and Mwakwere a run for their money.
PAA was founded by Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi after he fell out with ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is also the Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate and DP Ruto’s main rival in August. PAA is allied to UDA.
The county has arable land, especially in the central and southern zones, including Shimba Hills and the Ramisi sugar belt which has the only sugar factory in the Coast region.
It also has vast rangeland in Kinango and Lunga Lunga sub-counties with the potential for commercial livestock farming.
The county also boasts of huge niobium and titanium ore deposits at Mrima Hills and Maumba-Nguluku, respectively. It hosts the Base Titanium plant at Maumba which is the biggest single mining firm in the country.
Kwale has some of Africa’s best beaches in Diani, dotted with world-class hotels and a long coastline that includes the designed multibillion shilling Shimoni fish port site with the potential to enhance the region’s economic development through tourism and the blue economy.
Mvurya and Achani have maintained the performance of their administration is above par, especially in education, where they said they have spent Sh400 million on scholarships per year. However, their rivals have maintained that a lot still needs to be done to take the county to a new level of socio-economic development.
They have also complained that bursary kitty has not been shared fairly, disadvantaging some of the students from poor backgrounds.
Achani’s rivals have said distribution of the kitty money should be based on the assessment of case-by-case instead of focusing on fully funding students who secure places in national schools and universities as the education of others suffers.
“The bursary in Kwale County has not been distributed well. Many deserving cases are still being left out. Some children still learn under trees due to lack of classrooms among many other facilities. We need to focus on the equitable distribution of resources. We also need to improve access to healthcare,” said Prof Boga.
Boga, who is the former Agriculture PS, pledged to improve agriculture and fisheries if elected.
“I also am keen on fighting tribalism. I want to forge unity among all leaders and communities despite their political affiliations,” said Boga.
Lung’anzi is campaigning on the platform of improving education standards.
“I want to promote local manufacturing, agribusiness, fisheries, and tourism among other sectors, to reduce poverty,” he said who has been crisscrossing villages in Matuga, Kinango, Msambweni, and Lunga Lunga sub-counties, campaigning.
He added: “Our plan also includes the creation of jobs for the youth through industrialisation. For instance, Kubo South is rich in fruit production which means, we can set up a fruit processing plant there,” the aspirant said.
“We will ensure investment in infrastructure and revive the stalled fruit processing plant project in Shimba Hills to boost economic growth,” Lung’anzi said on social media.
Lung’anzi and Boga recently faced challenges, including when they had to change their running mates at the eleventh hour after it emerged those they had initially picked had not complied with the IEBC requirements.
Lung’anzi had to drop retired civil servant Ms Kavwa Mwakaribu after issues were raised about her degree certificate and picked Mr Hassan Mwarora.
Boga had initially picked Correctional Services Principal Secretary Ms Safina Kwekwe but replaced her with Nurein Ndao Mwatsahu.
This was after it turned out that Kwekwe did not quit her public service job on time.
Mvurya insists Achani has the experience needed to implement Kwale’s development agenda and sustain the provision of services.
“Kwale was celebrating after being voted the best county in the provision of education as a result of the “Elimu ni Sasa” programme that has been running since 2013,” the governor said.
He said the programme is sponsoring more than 5,000 students in national schools, over 3,600 in university, and more than 60,000 others in county and extra-county schools.
“I advise residents to vote wisely during the elections by choosing leaders who have the vision to take the county to greater heights,” said Mvurya. He added: “Tribal, religious, gender, and political differences should not be used to divide residents, rather they should be reasons to unite us.”
Mwakwere, who has also intensified his campaigns, blamed corruption for the “underdevelopment” in Kwale.
He said if elected, his first business will be to weed out corruption and expose those behind the vice in a bid to expand development and address poverty.
“Kwale has massive resources which are yet to benefit residents. The current administration has not done much to exploit these resources thanks to corruption. The first thing I will do if elected will be to rid the county of corruption and channel the money recovered to development projects,” said Mwakwere.
He pledged to invest in various sectors of the economy to create employment and uplift the quality of education and health.
The former envoy is also seeking to promote relations between the county and national government and improve water supply.
Mr Dena and Mr Ruwa have embarked on a door-to-door vote hunt promising to change the fortunes of residents through education, health, and employment creation.