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Hard tackles that put Governor Joho at odds with Jubilee

By Willis Oketch | January 9th 2017
Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho. (Photo: Courtesy)

Sometime at the beginning of 2016, an altercation erupted between Governor Hassan Joho and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Joho was miffed by the fact that the President and his entourage had neither invited him nor informed him of the President's long stay in Mombasa, not even "as a matter of protocol".

This year, the script hasn't changed. The President was in Mombasa again, but this time the State appears to have launched an offensive against the governor early. While Joho was away, his security and that of his key ally, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi was withdrawn.

Joho and Mr Kingi have easily distinguished themselves as Uhuru's and Jubilee's most ardent critics, among governors, and the only ones with the guts to talk back at the Head of State in his presence, earning the adulation of some and hatred of others.

Last week the two, who are regarded by Jubilee as the vanguard of anti-Jubilee forces at the Coast, were in their element when they accused Uhuru and his entourage of "hijacking" county projects and investments financed by international donors and launching them as if they were financed by Jubilee.

Joho skipped Uhuru's three meetings in Mombasa, instead sending his deputy Hazel Katana. He later surfaced to "set the record straight" about a storm water project Uhuru was launching. The governor was quick to point out that Jubilee had not only not invested "billions" at the Coast but was distorting the history of some of those projects to make them look like theirs.

State operatives were, evidently, annoyed at Joho's audacity. They fidgeted as the governor "set the record straight" and embarrassed the President, amid cheers.

Police and intelligence sources indicate that the President's entourage was annoyed because it is not clear who allowed Joho to speak, before Uhuru, especially after skipping two previous functions.

The sources claim the withdrawal of security seconded to the governors was linked to this because State officials believe officers attached to Joho and Kingi, who also launched his broadside on Uhuru within 24 hours, have not been giving accurate intelligence on them to enable the State prevent what happened to the President.

Relations between Joho and Jubilee, which, have remained frosty since 2013, fell to new lows last year when the State launched a series of actions against the governor. First was the partial shutdown of cargo stations in Mombasa owned by the Joho family.

Then there was the withdrawal of the governor's armed police security and licensed firearms after Jubilee's loss at the March 7, 2016 by-election, spearheaded by the two governors.

A day after the by-election, Coast Regional Co-ordinator Nelson Marwa, who Joho has dismissed as "Uhuru Kenyatta's agent", accused Joho and Kingi of orchestrating violence at the poll. He said the two "should not think they are above the law".

After these remarks, action was taken against Joho, Kingi, Kilifi Woman Representative Aisha Jumwa and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, who all lost their guards.

The genesis of the bad blood between Joho and Mr Marwa is not clear. But allies of the governor claim Marwa receives specific orders to frustrate Joho. This is believed to have escalated in 2014 when Joho publicly declared that Marwa "is a small man and I would rather be concerned with whoever sent you here".

Late last month, Joho spoke about his run-ins with Jubilee, especially in the past year. When asked whether he believed he had been reckless, and if he feared for his life and his forecast for 2017, he said: "What gives me strength is being on the side of truth. I have no regrets for 2016 because what I stood for was the truth."

He added: "We voiced what most Kenyans were unable to. I do not see myself being different unless there is a shift in the manner this regime governs, unless there is a shift against marginalisation, and other policies this regime has been known for.

It was clear that Joho would be unrelenting against Jubilee in 2017.

"The President is coming again. I am waiting for them. I am told they are coming to launch projects launched by the defunct municipal and the grand coalition government which they want to claim as their own. Let them show us the specific projects they have launched," he said.

He said his New Year resolution was "to ensure the Uhuruto regime" is defeated in the August poll.

"Next year I will focus on national politics to ensure Jubilee loses. We shall enlighten the citizens to ensure the Uhuruto team loses. I want to lead the team that will ensure Raila is elected. We will run a campaign that has never been run in Kenya before. Our presence shall be felt everywhere," he said.

On whether he thought he was taking enormous risks, Joho said: "Life, health and wealth are all God-given and no one should intimidate anyone."

He complained that Jubilee was undermining elected leaders and promoting impunity.

"The behaviour (by the State) is unwarranted. The behaviour towards me and the county I lead shows they have a vendetta. This is the only county where national officials and the President come and the governor is not informed at all even as a matter of protocol," he said.

ODM leaders now believe Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery is leading a new offensive. Last year, when Joho declined to return his licenced guns to the State, Mr Nkaissery threatened to arrest him, with the governor sticking to his guns.

The courts overturned the cancellation of the arms licences. A series of court petitions in Nairobi and Malindi led to the lifting of several restrictions imposed by the State on Joho and Kingi.

Joho stepped up his criticism of the Jubilee government, accusing it of bias against Coast, being indifferent to historical land injustices, and plotting to take away key functions of the port of Mombasa to Rift Valley.

The rise of Joho's stature within ODM and CORD ensured he traversed other parts of Kenya where he stepped up criticism of Jubilee.

But Joho's rise within CORD and national politics has also cost him. A former close ally, Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, now believes Joho's government is corrupt.

For a combination of reasons, including personal differences, business rivalry and ideology the two Hassans cannot see eye to eye.

Last week the senator accused Joho's administration of grand corruption in the award of a garbage collection tender and a multi-billion shilling housing project. The Wiper senator claimed that Joho's administration had fraudulently awarded a Sh300 million garbage collection project to his close allies and was planning to sell off county assets in the guise of promoting low cost housing.

The Sh90 billion housing project is one of the latest projects opposed by Joho's rivals but, like in most other cases the governor has survived legal processes, including one that questioned his university degree.

Joho has also won legal battles waged by the State over cargo stations owned by his family. Last year the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped a corruption probe linking him to the sale of a market in Mombasa in the mid 1990s.

But Joho says despite winning the legal battles the State has ordered the port of Mombasa and Kenya Revenue Authority not to trade with his cargo stations, claims The Standard could not independently verify.

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