Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho has been under siege from the State in recent weeks, a development the 43-year-old attributes to his ideological differences with the ruling establishment.
He views the “harassment” by the State — the withdrawal of some of his body guards and the order to surrender licensed firearms — as a ploy discredit him because of what he stands for.
Joho says: “The President and I have no personal differences. However, we have deep ideological and policy differences.”
The governor says his ideology as a social democrat that believes in a government for the people and by the people is at odds with Jubilee’s policy that ascribes to promoting an acquisitive political class in a region where the vast majority are poor and landless.
Joho’s statements appear to be at odds with his background as a man whose familial background is one of wealth and privilege. In the last few months, the family’s thriving Container Freight Services business has been under siege from authorities who have attempted to paint these warehouses as conduits for smuggling.
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The Kenya Revenue Authority claims about these warehouses —where goods are consolidated into or deconsolidated from containers for transport to their next destination — have been dismissed by the court.
Joho views the forced closure of the family’s Container Freight Station as part of a campaign to harass and discredit him. The fact that the High Court in Mombasa has summoned the Kenya Ports Authority management over this arbitrary closure seems to vindicate the governor.
Despite these actions, pressure from the State has continued to mount against the governor. After the CFS affair, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery threatened to arrest the governor over the firearm impasse. Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery claimed the guns were being withdrawn because Joho “is temperamental.”
Joho has read these actions as an act of sour grapes from the Jubilee establishment, especially because he and CORD luminaries led an aggressive campaign to ensure the party’s candidate Willy Mtengo handily defeated Jubilee’s Philip Charo in the Malindi parliamentary by-election on March 7.
However, Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa’s view is that Joho’s bodyguards and security personnel attached to Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and Women Representative Aisha Jumwa orchestrated violence during the by-election
Joho and Kingi have also demanded an apology from Mr Marwa and threatened to sue him.
Analyst says that unwittingly, Joho’s detractors have emboldened him and raised his public profile.
“Joho’s political struggles have energised him and helped him to cut a niche in national politics,” says Prof Halim Shauri, a professor of sociology at Pwani University.
The professor says that Joho is gradually becoming the de facto leader of the Coast region and added that “neither Jubilee nor CORD can underrate him now.”
Joho is not new to confrontational politics that characterised Mombasa in the 1980s and 90s when former MPs Said Hemed Ibrahim, Salim Mwaruwa and Karisa Maitha and Shariff Nassir dominated political discourse.
“If you want to know Joho you first have to understand his history and his brand of politics. He is a student of Mombasa’s confrontational politics,” says lawyer Abubakar Yusuf.
This combative nature emerges when Joho describes Jubilee’s infrastructure projects. For instance, the governor dismisses Jubilee’s flagship Standard Gauge Railway Sh327 billion project, which he says will be a financial burden for poor taxpayers.
“The SGR only benefits a few rich people and billionaires,” Joho says and complains that when squatters at the Waitiki ranch were allocated land they were charged Sh182,000 for the smallest parcels even though there should be no payment demanded for those who seek to be allocated land.
The governor says he disagrees with the Jubilee establishment on issues such as this, and its penchant to disregard the Constitution, particularly in regard to the transfer or delegation of power to counties.
“It is unlikely we shall ever agree on this. We firmly and deeply believe in devolution as the last hope of our people. We are unlikely to agree with anyone that seeks to undermine the devolution process,” he said.
The governor has challenged claims of his association with the narcotics trade and prevailed in an election petition where claims were made that his university degree was a forgery.
His supporters say some of the claims have been advanced by his brother Abubakar Joho’s business rivals and the governor’s political rivals.
The 43-year-old governor became actively engaged in politics in 2004 when he became the chairman of the Kisauni Liberal Democratic Party following the death of Kisauni MP Karisa Maitha.
He was elected area MP in the 2007 General Election before he was appointed to Cabinet as assistant Minister.
In 2014, Joho and Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba electrified ODM under the so-called Team Fresh leading a party putsch that sought to replace some of the old guards. To appease the younger lot, Joho was made ODM’s deputy party leader under a negotiated agreement
“Some people don’t like him because he is a go-getter. Once he has set his eyes on something he goes for it aggressively,” says nominated MCA Mohamed Hatimy
“He is not a lone ranger or a bully; he actually consults widely before he makes any move,” says Hatimy.