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Mombasa misses Cabinet slots as power base shifts to Kilifi, Kwale

Cabinet Secretary nominees Aden Duale, Aisha Jumwa and Kipchumba Murkomen.

In a new shift of political power at the Coast, Mombasa missed out on the list of the 22 Cabinet nominees sent to Parliament last week by President William Ruto for vetting, while Kilifi and Kwale counties have won big.

This is expected to exclude Mombasa, Coast’s political and economic capital, from the country’s apex decision-making body on governance, political and economic for the first time in 24 years.

In Kilifi, former governor Amason Kingi was elected Senate Speaker and former Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa is the Cabinet Secretary (CS) nominee for Public Service, Gender, and Affirmative Action.

Owen Baya, who recaptured his Kilifi North seat on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, has bagged the Deputy Majority Leader slot in the National Assembly.

In Kwale, former governor Salim Mvurya is the CS nominee for Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs. UDA has also nominated Raphael Chimera from Kwale to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Mombasa is still waiting for its first appointment in Ruto’s regime. The president’s party, UDA, has, however, nominated Miraj Abdurrahman from Mombasa to the National Assembly.

Former Kisauni MP Ali Mboga, who dropped out of the Mombasa governor race to support UDA’s Hassan Omar after he was guaranteed the Lands CS post, was left out of the Cabinet list.

On Friday, Public Service Commission included Mbogo’s name and 10 other candidates from Mombasa in the list of 585 individuals shortlisted to be interviewed for the position of Principal Secretary. His name was not listed on Friday

Political analysts say Coast residents should have seen the shift in its political power base from Mombasa to Kilifi or Kwale coming once Ruto captures power.

Pwani University lecturer Halim Shauri and lawyer Abubakar Yusuf said Ruto’s strategy since 2018 has been to end Mombasa’s dominance of the Mijikenda tribes in Kwale and Kilifi.  

“Ruto has set his sights on the 2027 elections. At the Coast, he is targeting the Mijikenda votes who are the majority in Kilifi, Kwale and even Mombasa,” said Shauri, an associate professor of sociology.

Shauri said even among the nine Mijikenda sub-tribes, the president’s appointments have favoured the Giriama, which is the biggest sub-tribe.

He said just like during the reigns of former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi, Mombasa will not get much from Ruto’s government because its voters are heterogeneous.

According to the 2019 census, the Mijikenda comprise 1,975,869 out of the 4,329,474 coastal population. “This makes them very attractive to any politician,” said Shauri.

Ruto started courting Kwale and Kilifi counties immediately after the March 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Abubakar Yusuf says Ruto is honouring the political pacts he signed with Kingi and Mvurya and the sacrifices Jumwa made for him.

It appears, says Yusuf, he is happy with and emboldened by the success he got from the two counties in the August election and wants to build on it for his re-election bid in 2027.

After the March 2018 handshake, Ruto kicked off unrelenting forays into Coast mostly targeting Kwale and Kilifi where he held several funds-drives for the youth and women groups.

In just days, Ruto was able to get support from then governors Mvurya and Kingi, and a host of other elected MPs like Jumwa, Baya, and Nyali’s Mohamed Ali.

Jumwa and Baya said they joined Ruto “to get development for our people”. But there was simmering tension between Kingi and Mvurya on one side and then Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho on the other.

Other analysts say the wedge was due to rising political awareness of the natives of Kwale and Kilifi, in what has come to be described as ‘the Mijikenda nationalism.’

Mijikenda leaders like Mvurya and Kingi have for years complained about Mombasa’s dominance of the region despite the numerical strength of the Mijikenda people.

Evans Mayaka, a political analyst, said the wedge between Mijikenda leaders and Joho is a political fodder for Ruto as he set his eyes on the 2027 election.

“Kingi and Mvurya are being rewarded for leading the onslaught against Joho and ODM at the Coast. Ruto knows they will be key at the Coast in 2027,” said Mayaka.

Mombasa has not missed out in Cabinet appointments since 1998 when the late Shariff Nassir, former Mvita MP, and Mombasa Kanu supremo, was for the first time appointed a full minister.

But Mombasa cemented its place as the seat of the region’s political power during President Mwai Kibaki’s regime when Karisa Maitha and Najib Balala were appointed to the Cabinet.

After Maitha died in 2004, Kibaki appointed the then Likoni MP Rashid Shakombo to maintain Mombasa’s political and economic dominance at the Coast.

In Mombasa, Balala, the outgoing Tourism CS, is the longest-serving minister, having served in different capacities for close to 20 years under Kibaki and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Until 1998, all ministers from the Coast came from Kilifi, Kwale, or Taita Taveta. Political analysts say this was because most senior political figures from Mombasa were semi-literate.

Some of the famous ministers from Coast include the late Robert Stanley Matano from Kwale who served for 24 years until 1995.