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Coast leaders renew plot for new political party after secession talk

By Bernard Sanga | Feb 18th 2018 | 4 min read
Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi (right) meet at the Malindi's Star Hospital in Kilifi County on Tuesday 14th November, 2017. [Photo by Maarufu Mohamed/Standard]

Opinion is divided over renewed push by a section of Coast legislators to form a political party and whether this is tied to the secession agenda currently gaining traction in the region.

Plans to form the party are driven by ODM MPs from Kilifi County who recently criticised NASA’s leadership claiming Coast was sidelined in sharing of parliamentary posts.

The MPs also feel Jubilee has not been fair to their supporters in the region especially in government appointments. The leaders argue that actions by the two coalitions show it’s for Coast to establish its own political party to boost their bargaining power.

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has added his voice to the matter saying discussions with other political leaders in the region over the party have already begun.

Secessionist agenda

But aides of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho say he is not keen on the idea of a new party and instead wants to rally Coast leaders to remain in ODM where he is the deputy party leader.

“We have not discussed formation of a party. But I can say that in ODM we are well placed. Joho is the deputy party leader,” said Mombasa Deputy Governor William Kingi.

Dr Kingi said on Friday that Joho had cultivated his political image within ODM and was keen to battle for the presidential ticket in 2022 and “ODM being a national party is better for us.”

In Kilifi, Governor Kingi, MPs Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) and Owen Baya (Kilifi South) say Coast leaders will form a party and field a presidential candidate in 2022.

“We’ll build our own house with enough bedrooms to accommodate all of us. Borrowing from others has brought us many problems. In 2022, we’ll not join any party,” said the Kilifi governor recently.

It is not clear if the proposed party will propagate the secessionist agenda initiated by the Mombasa and Kilifi governors last year.

When they launched the separatist drive last year the two governors argued that after a half a century of post-independence politics union of the Coast with Kenya is untenable and the residents should exercise the right to self-determination.

Political analysts now say the secession talk was a mobilising tool and politicians behind the separation talk are actually keen on formation of a political party to raise their profile and bargaining power in national politics.

“Secession was a tool to mobilise the masses because it is a topic that raises emotions of the Coast people regardless of party affiliations. The ultimate goal was the formation of a political party,” says political analyst Maimuna Mwidau.

She says opposition leaders behind the formation of the party are motivated by a feeling among residents that the region has not been treated fairly in NASA.

Founding ideology

But Joho’s Deputy Governor Kingi says his boss is comfortable in ODM and will support any idea that will lead to the development the region.

The deputy governor said that the secession debate is still on going and “no decision had been made as reported. It was an idea that was subject to discussion by all stakeholders.”

Maimuna argues that Joho’s future in ODM is not cast in stone as a politician with a vested interest in the future he ought to have a fall back plan when things go wrong in the opposition party.

“Joho’s popularity is because he is close to Raila Odinga. He cannot continue riding on ‘Baba’ popularity. He must cut his own image because even Namwamba (former Budalangi Mp Ababu Namwamba) was also popular but we all know what happened (when he left the opposition),” she says.

Coast has witnessed the formation of seven political parties and two political pressure groups but in most cases fizzled out after elections.

In the run up to the August 2017 General Election Jubilee allied politicians led by former Kilifi North Mp Gideon Mung’aro also toyed with the idea of forming a political party.

But this failed to take off and political analysts say it was because the proponents lacked a founding ideology to unify people in the region and only thrived on the agenda of exclusion. Political analysts now say that the new efforts mainly led by leaders from Kilifi must have a compelling agenda that captures the aspirations of all communities living in the region.

Others argue that calls for the formation of the Coast party are sponsored by leaders from other regions to stop the ‘secession bushfire’ and spark division between Kingi and Joho.

Caleb Ng’wena a human rights activist, notes that historical, racial and religious differences pit Coastal people against each other making it hard for a local party to flourish.

Ng’wena argues that Joho and Kingi were in their second and last terms in the governorship and could easily fall victims of other politicians dangling the Deputy President post for the 2022 race. 

“In the past Coast politics was controlled by an affluent clique based in Mombasa that held ultimate power of political control. That is why they could allow a party formed by leaders from other former Districts to flourish,” says Ngw’ena.

Ngw’ena however says that if the governors were to team up the idea of forming party with a base in the region was viable because of their charisma and financial muscle.

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