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The big task of creating a united Coast political base

By Bernard Sanga and Patrick Beja | February 1st 2021
Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho (left) and Kilifi's Amason Jeffa Kingi, both who have declared their presidential bids in the 2022 elections. [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

The election campaign is here and Coast voters have an opportunity to chart their destiny and free themselves from dependence shackles. A new breed of ‘messiahs - Mombasa’s Hassan Joho and his Kilifi’s Amason Kingi - is promising salvation, clothed in new parties.

This is a well-beaten path, for in the past coastal region has had leaders who came in the name of freeing locals and even contested the presidency.

Of the three politicians form the Coast that have given a stab at the presidency, Dr Chibule wa Tsuma could perhaps be the most remembered because of his dismal performance in the 1992 polls.

Mindset problem

Tsuma garnered 15,393 votes in a race that was won by Daniel arap Moi of Kanu with 1,927,645, followed by Ford-Asili’s Kenneth Matiba with 1,354,856.

In an interview with The Standard, the 77-year-old surgeon argued that not much had changed in the last 29 years, save for increased mistrust by voters. 

The former presidential aspirant says the biggest challenge for Coast leaders who want to ascend to the presidency is the locals’ notion that no politician from the region can win the presidency or other seats at the national level.

“There is a mindset problem. Coast voters do not trust that one of their own can be president. That is why they can vote an upcountry person almost to a man but not a local,” says Tsuma.

Further, Tsuma adds that Coast residents’ decades of lamentation over land problems, joblessness and lack is out of a notion that a saviour or messiah is to come from out of the region.

“It is a huge task to make people to believe in their ability. I doubt we have a leader at the moment with the muscle to drive an effective campaign and win,” he says.

Tsuma, who contested on a Kenya National Congress (KNC) ticket, also struggled to mobilise resources and resorted to door-to-door campaigns instead of holding political rallies.

Other than Tsuma, in 2007 a sociology lecturer Katama Mkangi (now deceased), also from Kaloleni, ran for presidency on KNC ticket and garnered 23,554 votes.

In 1961, Ronald Gideon Ngala (deceased) pioneered the region’s struggle to clinch the coveted office at the Legislative Council elections through KANU.

KADU got 11 seats and KANU 19. Ngala, then 46, however formed a coalition government and became the Chief Minister after KANU declined to do so.

But Ngala, who hailed from Kaloleni in Kilifi County, was defeated in the 1963 elections, where KANU won 83 of the 129 national assembly seats, as independence dawned.

Halim Shauri argues that unlike presently, in 1992 there was a semblance of pride among the Coast voters, and they could easily support one of their own for the national office.

“People can be galvanised behind an idea or ideology. You cannot tell people to believe in nothing or to vote for you just because you come from their region. In 1990s, groups like Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) rode on issues that were close to the hearts and minds of people,” said Caleb Ng’wena, a land rights activist.

He said it would be naïve for Joho and Kingi to expect voters in Coast to support them just because they come from the region.

“They should outline clearly what they will do about the historical and present land injustices, and most importantly, what they did with the billions of shillings in their counties,” said Ng’wena. 

Scholars attribute

Other political scholars attribute the said pride or confidence to the establishment of the Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) in the 1990s and the fanatical following it enjoyed from the locals.

Kenyan Muslim scholar Ali Mazrui (deceased) said the IPK idea came up after the Coastal people felt that the government had failed to address land injustices in the region.

Prof Mazrui, in his many writings on IPK, also attributed the agitation for an Islamic party on unemployment, stating that by then, the region’s poverty levels were double the national figures.

Those two issues turned to be potent campaigning issues of IPK, whose powerful waves swept the entire Coast region and even stirred some of its leaders to capture parliamentary slots.

“In the 1960s there was also a semblance of unity in Coast region. But most importantly Ngala’s support transcended the Coast to gain support in Rift Valley and Western Kenya. This is what Joho and Kingi have failed to do,” said Prof Shauri.

Coast needs a leader who can rekindle the people’s hope, unity and confidence in their ability to run for the presidency and to solve historical injustices, added the don.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho with Kilifi's Amason Kingi at Mtomondoni Grounds in Kilifi on March 24, 2019. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Joho and Kingi have launched campaigns, urging locals to get rid of a notion that coast cannot produce a presidential candidate.

National political seat

“I want you to deal with the notion in your minds that no one from Mombasa or Coast can vie and win national political seats. We must erase that from our minds,” said Joho.

Joho has said he will seek a presidential ticket on the Orange Democratic Movement party, declaring “it is time for Raila Odinga to support my candidature.”

Kingi, who has said he will amalgamate all fringe political parties in the region into a new big outfit, which he plans to use to vie for the presidency, has also had a similar message.

“We should not wait for orders from people in Nairobi. People should not attack each other to please their political masters,” he said during the burial of former Kaloleni MP Gunga Mwinga.

Former Kisauni MP Anania Mwaboza says although the wave across the region favours a local presidential candidate, there are doubts over Joho and Kingi’s seriousness.

Created confusion

He says the declaration by Joho and Kingi just months to the polls that they will run for the presidency on different parties has created confusion, with many Coast people questioning their ability.

“The question is now the timing, logistics and truthfulness of those politicians seeking to be presidential candidates from this region. They should be going round the counties and mobilising for votes,” he argues.

Kilifi politician Naomi Cidi has however cheered on Joho and Kingi, saying both are brave and seasoned politicians who can be president.

“Joho and Kingi are our sons. We can subject the two to a vetting process and nominate one as our torch bearer,” she stated. 

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