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Factional politics derail Coast economic bloc

By Patrick Beja | February 14th 2021

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (R) with Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho (L). [David Njaaga, Standard]

Factional politics and supremacy wars have stalled efforts of the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP) established to scale up economic development of the Coast region.

Critics argue that failure by founders of JKP to involve residents at the grassroots levels and reliance on advice of the elite have contributed to a delay in realising the bloc’s vision.

They say the change of guard from founder chair Salim Mvurya (Kwale) to Taita Taveta governor Granton Samboja last Wednesday was insignificant.

Mombasa politician Matano Chengo observed that supremacy wars between Coast governors, particularly Mombasa’s Hassan Joho and Mvurya, had stalled regional integration and the bloc’s economic agenda.

“JKP has not achieved anything so far. It was started many years ago but we only hear about it when elections are nearing.

“There is nothing to show.

“We should work to achieve Coast unity first,” Chengo argued.

Factional wars

He noted that political factions supporting ODM leader Raila Odinga and that backing Deputy President William Ruto have made it difficult for the economic bloc to succeed in pushing for the unity of the region.

Mvurya, who served as JKP chair from its launch in June 2015, has been a key ally of  Ruto while Joho, who was the deputy chair, is ODM deputy party leader and Raila’s point man at the Coast.

Coast governors Joho, Mvurya, Amason Kingi of Kilifi and the then governors Hussein Dado (Tana River), Issa Timamy (Lamu) and John Mruttu of Taita Taveta mooted the idea of forming the JKP in 2014 and formally launched it in June 2015 at Fort Jesus Museum.

Former Kisauni MP and assistant minister for Immigration Ananiah Mwaboza claimed the governors failed to widely consult with Coast leaders, including those at the grassroots, to win their support during formation of JKP.

“JKP is a deadwood. The founding leaders failed to consult us and instead embarked on a public relations exercise,” he said.

University don Halim Shauri noted that JKP was a brilliant idea but its vision was frustrated by silent leadership wrangles between Governor Mvurya and governors Joho and Kingi.

“JKP was a brilliant idea but failed because it was poorly conceived. The six coastal counties conceived a baby but never gave it milk.

“They should go back to the drawing board and ensure Jumuiya is well resourced,” Prof Shauri argued.

He said the governors over-relied on professionals from local universities and did little to galvanise grassroots support.

But JKP chief executive Emmanuel Nzai maintained that the economic bloc has made strides after crafting a blueprint that was endorsed by residents, and got the goodwill of development partners.

According to Nzai, although the governors were the political arm of the regional integration, his office has tried to keep JKP away from politics and that they have silently reached certain milestones.

He cited the Sh2.5 billion grant from the European Union extended to JKP  to tap the potential of the blue economy through the Go Blue Programme.

Nzai said Go Blue Programme will be launched in Kwale County next month as a catalyst for capacity building in the fisheries sector in the six counties for four years.

He argued that JKP and its partners were focused on reviving cashewnut and cassava farming, among other projects.

Rotational chair

On the change of guard, Nzai said it had been decided that JKP political leadership be rotational and that is why Samboja was selected to take over from Mvurya.

“Governor has made his contribution. Samboja was particularly chosen to lead JKP because he is serving his first term.

“Governor Fahim Twaha of Lamu is serving at the Council of Governors as chair of the committee on blue economy while Tana River governor Dhadho Godhana is chair  of the Foreign Affairs and Security,” he said.

He also noted that the position of deputy chair of JKP that was held by Joho has been scrapped.

On Wednesday, during a retreat in Taita Taveta County, governors Joho, Kingi, Dhadho and Twaha who are in the Handshake political arrangement dropped Mvurya as JKP chair and replaced him with Samboja.

Mvurya did not attend the retreat.

The governors also pledged to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and hold rallies to unite residents in the region.

Samboja said the governors agreed to unite the Coast counties and foster development and also hold joint rallies to popularise the BBI in the  region.

The rallies will be held from February 20 to 22 in Tana River and Lamu counties.

Presidential candidate

He also said it was time for those who have been supported by Coast voters to also back a presidential candidate from the region.

“This time round, we will not play second fiddle in national politics again. This is our commitment.

“We will be at the negotiating table and we will lead our people from the front,” Samboja said.

During the Jumuiya Agribusiness and Investment Conference (Jabeic) in Malindi in December 2019, the six governors resolved to market JKP as a premier investment destination and take advantage of the Kenya Investment Policy to ensure success of the bloc’s projects.

The conference was attended by governor Mvurya, Joho, Kingi, Twaha and Taita Taveta Deputy Governor Majala Mlaghui as well as development partners.

The conference resolved that the counties would tap the potential and investment opportunities in blue economy.

The key projects in the economic bloc are blue economy, agribusiness, food and nutrition security, urbanisation, natural resources and environment, governance, health and education, trade and industries, infrastructure and land banking.

“Counties must collaborate and not compete. They should build capacities and co-opt technical expertise,” read the resolutions presented by Nzai.

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