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Formation of Coast political party put on hold

COUNTIES
By Patrick Beja | January 4th 2015

Kenya: Plans to form a   political party for the coastal region  might be delayed to allow leaders time to test the viability of the ambitious Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (Commonwealth of Coast Counties) initiative.

Leaders are now in agreement that the Commonwealth of Coast counties should be developed to anchor a political party in the future.

Sources told The Standard on Sunday that the strategy this time round is to rally the region’s residents around an economic and social agenda so as to avoid “putting the cart before the horse.”

Those we spoke to denied that the idea of a political part for the region could be fizzling out, and said the timing was wrong. Malindi MP Dan Kazungu said the region’s leaders have resolved to focus on development and to put political issues aside so they can unite the residents.

“Our people are yearning for development and we are uniting them around this agenda first,” Kazungu, an ally of Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro  who has been spearheading calls for a local party, said.

Mr Mung’aro has been keeping off Commonwealth of Coast Counties activities amidst claims that the proponents of a Coast party have neither the financial muscle nor other necessary clout to establish a viable political vehicle.

But Kazungu said while governors were uniting the people through the Commonwealth of Coast Counties initiative, MPs under the Coast Parliamentary Group (CPG) headed by Mung’aro were pushing for the increased funding for the Coast Development Authority (CDA).

Development projects

A meeting was held recently between the Coast Parliamentary Group and the Coast Development Authorityat the Travellers Beach Hotel where a committee that will engage the national and county governments on CDA funding was formed under Taveta MP Naomi Shaban. An MP from each of the six Coast counties will serve in the committee.

“CDA came up with the Mwache dam to be funded at Sh18 billion. These are the kind of projects that no single county can develop on itsown and that is why we want CDA made more vibrant even as governors pursue the Commonwealth of Coast Counties idea,” Kazungu said.

Kwale Woman Representative Zainab Chidzuga said the Coast Parliamentary Group meeting steered clear of the Coast party debate, only discussing development.

“Apart from forming the committee to support CDA, we reviewed development projects during the year. We did not discuss the Coast party at all,” Chidzuga said.

Kaloleni MP Gunga Mwinga said the issue of a local political party will be discussed at a later date.

 

“We have not talked about it for a while because it is not a priority. It is a matter that will be discussed much later,” Mwinga said.

Separately, Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya said they are seeking to unite the region through the Commonwealth of Coast Counties which will have a general assembly for elected and community leaders.

He said local political parties formed in the past had not made an impact in the region.

Major meeting

“We have decided to begin with economic and social issues and see how we progress,” Mvurya, the convener of the Commonwealth of Coast Counties, said.

The Kwale governor said his team recently met members of the county assembly (MCAs) and county assembly speakers in Kilifi and briefed them on the progress of the initiative ahead of a major meeting in Lamu from January 16 where various teams will submit their reports.

The Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani will comprise all governors, senators, MPs, county assembly leaders of majority and minority, speakers, academicians, religious and business leaders from the Coast. He said the leaders have not identified a “Coast kingpin” as reported in a section of the press.

The team appointed Pwani University Vice Chancellor Prof Mohamed Rajab as the chairman of the committee to spearhead the formation of the proposed Pwani Development Bank. Mvurya, who was flanked by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, said his committee has also appointed Taita Taveta Woman Representative Joyce Lay as the chairperson of the committee that will spearhead the formation of the Coast Tourism Development Board.

Speaking at the Tamarind Resort in Mombasa after a consultative meeting, Mvurya said the six coastal counties will sign a memorandum of understanding with Pwani University, Technical University of Mombasa, Taita Taveta University College and Umma University to enhance research, training and capacity building. Taita Taveta University College Principal Prof Hamad Boga will lead the collaboration process with the local counties. “Signing the MOU with the universities will ensure that this process benefits from research and innovation,” Mvurya said.

Joho said the coastal counties will pull the initial financial resources to start the regional bank and invite locals to invest in it.

Common agenda

“We want to come up with a strategy that is different from the past. That strategy should have one person who will lead the rest of us because we cannot all be leaders,” said Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi.

Kingi said a political party was not a priority but “it will come automatically once the leaders come up with a common agenda”.

 

An MP who attended last Sunday’s closed plenary session said that sharp differences played out forcing opponents of the political party to cede grounds. After the meeting, Joho declared that he does not rule out the formation of a political party and said the first step should be the push to unify the region.

“We want to unite our people and make sure that whatever we do benefit them. Once we achieve that unity then the party will come if that is what they will want,” Joho said.

Some leaders led by Lamu East MP Sharif Athman Ali insisted that party was the only “vessel to push for the region’s interest at the national level.”

“We cannot lie to ourselves that we can be strong in the fight for our people’s interests at the national level if we don’t have a vessel to enable us to negotiate with leaders from other regions,” said Sharif.

Political analyst Maimuna Mwidau said tribal, religious and political challenges must be resolved if the new initiative is to be realised.

According to Ms Mwidau, there is enough time to unite the Coast residents and make them take a common position before unveiling a political party.


 

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