Ethnic groups a target for some eyeing county seat as Joho exits


Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho speaking at Chungwa House. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

It is a delicate courtship of ethnic groups in the highly cosmopolitan Mombasa County for the six aspirants in the battle to succeed Governor Hassan Ali Joho.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, banker Suleiman Shahbal and Deputy Governor William Kingi have declared interest in the seat on ODM ticket. Mr Shahbal is making a third stab at the seat after he lost to Mr Joho in the 2013 and 2017 elections. In 2013, Joho won with 132,583 votes against Shahbal’s 94,905.

In 2017, Joho successfully defended the seat on ODM and got 220,000 votes. Shahbal, then in Jubilee, got 69,555 votes.

Former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, who this time wants to vie for the seat on UDA, previously contested on Wiper party and garnered 44,000 votes. “In 2013, I won and my win was stolen. in 2017, I contested against a political giant (Joho) and came second. This time round I will win this seat in the morning,” said Shahbal.

The Constitutional Division of the High Court struck out Shahbal’s petition against Joho’s win 2013, saying he did not follow rules governing election petitions.

“I’m not inexperienced like in 2013; I’m still not a politician, but a manager with a clear agenda and strategy to win the seat and turn around the economy of Mombasa,” he said.

“My agenda is to create jobs by initiating projects through public-private partnerships and to better education standards. I will allocate Sh50 million for each ward and spur economic growth to create 100,000 jobs per year,” he added.

Abdulswamad, who for the last nine years has had an on and off relationship with Joho, is fighting claims that he is the governor’s project. “I’m Mombasa people’s project,” he says.

Abdulswamad recently met leaders of different ethnic groups in Mombasa in efforts to bag the ODM ticket.

On Friday, he could not be reached, but in a recent interview, he defended his record in Parliament, where he chairs Public Investment Committee.

“My record in the fights against corruption is well documented in Parliament. I’ve also fought policies with adverse effects on the economy of Mombasa,” said Abdulswamad.

The MP has also met small-scale traders in Mombasa.

Omar said he would launch his campaigns after hosting Deputy President William Ruto. “I will educate the people and liberate them from old politics. It cannot be that Mombasa governor must either be a tycoon or someone with a name from old politicians,” he said.

His strategy is to influence Mombasa voters to stop politics of tokenism and alms and embrace issue-based political contests.

Omar’s 2017 manifesto revolved around tackling land issues, development of infrastructure, health sector and education as well as provision of clean water and waste management.

He contested for the Senate seat in 2013 and garnered 130,605 votes, beating veteran politician Ramadhan Kajembe (now deceased) and current Tourism CS Najib Balala.

“I will move to every corner of the county to mobilise voters like in 2013 when I contested for the Senate seat,” said Omar.

Former Nyali MP Hezron Awiti Bollo, who will contest on the Vibrant Democratic Party (VDP) said he had learnt from his past mistakes and was ready to take on challengers. “I have embarked on meet-the-people tours. I’m collecting the views from the voters that will be incorporated in my manifesto. It will be a tough battle, but we are up to it,” said Bollo.

He said he would consult widely on the issues dear to the voters’ hearts. “In 2017, I learnt my lessons and I will consult widely and create a big team to guarantee me the win,” he said.

Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo (Wiper) is running for the seat on the agenda of dealing with land squatter problems.

Mr Mbogo, a former oil merchant, says he has a head-start because he represents Kisauni Constituency with 120,000 odd voters.

In recent weeks, the aspirants have employed various strategies to woo 580,223 voters in the highly heterogeneous county divided along with the ethnic, religious or social lines. “Shahbal has met Luo professionals, people living with disabilities and women groups. They are all making demands, but we are sincere with them on what we can do,” said Idris Abdirahman.

Analysts say many factors will determine who succeeds Joho. They include the candidates’ financial muscle, up-country vote support and party affiliations. The race is billed as one of the most expensive, second to Nairobi, and third after the presidency.

Major (Rtd) Abdirahman, a former political advisor to Joho, says the 2022 campaigns may be more expensive that 2017’s because it is a succession election. “It costs Shahbal about Sh500,000 to hold a successive ‘Gumzo Mtaani na Shahbal. We have held in at least 29 wards,” said Abdirahman, who is currently Shahbal’s campaign manager. “It is very expensive to run a campaign in Mombasa. Shahbal told the court that he spent close to Sh200 million in the 2013 campaigns,” said local political analyst Mohamed Alyaan.

But the aspirants are also scratching their heads on how to balance the demands and interests of various ethnic groups locally.

Luo professionals chairman Pius Oketch said the community would use its numerical strength to push for a better deal. “We met Shahbal and gave him our suggestions, not demands, as was reported,” said Oketch, adding that top on the list is the post of the running mate.

On January 29, Abdulswamad met a group of Luo political leaders, who handed him a Memorandum of Understanding detailing the community’s demands. The group, led by Charles Rambo, told him to nominate former Mombasa County Secretary Francis Thoya or Millicent Odhiambo, a tourism player, as his running mate.

They also want the County Secretary, three County Executive Committee, three Chief Officers and two sub-county administrators posts to be reserved for the community.

Other seats they said Abdulswamad should allocate them for their support are 10 ward administrators, three nominated MCA posts, director of the inspectorate and a slot in the County Public Services Board.

Abdulswamad is the son of former Coast Kanu supremo Shariff Nasir, who also represented Mvita Constituency before he died.