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Ruto pledges to undo SGR and port deals in Kingi pact

PAA party leader Amason Kingi (left) shakes hands with Deputy President William Ruto at the DP's residence where Kingi officially joined Kenya Kwanza on May 10, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto has promised to make the Port of Mombasa the only point of clearance for cargo.

This is one of the conditions Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, who recently defected to Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, has given the outfit. 

The demand, if executed within a year as Kingi’s Pamoja Africa Alliance (PAA) is seeking, will cripple the activities of Nairobi and Naivasha inland ports, which politicians claim only benefit a few individuals.

The agreement signed between Kenya Kwanza and PAA also seeks to have the government address historical land injustices at the Coast, by reforming land laws and setting up a land compensation fund to help locals acquire or buy land from absentee landlords.

Also on the cards are plum State jobs for Coast residents, an end to the squatter problem and revival of collapsed factories in the region should Ruto be elected president.

“Upon winning the presidential election scheduled for August 9, the Kenya Kwanza Alliance administration shall ensure the following within the 2022-2027 development cycle reverse all operational changes that have been carried out in the recent past whose effect has been to relocate some of the core activities of Kenya’s main sea port from Mombasa to inland depots in Nairobi and Naivasha,” read part of the statement from Kingi on what the parties had agreed to.

Ruto said the intention of SGR was not to impoverish Coast, but “to grow the economy of the region and improve business and fortunes”.

“Unfortunately, a few people hijacked the project and ended up with selfish programmes to the detriment of Coast people,” he claimed.

The DP outlined his road map to end historical land injustices that has bedeviled Coast for over a century. He agreed to set up a Land Compensation Fund to buy land from absentee landlords to settle squatters.

He said his administration will in its first term allocate money to buy the land. The DP did not however explain whether the fund will be different from the current Settlement Trustee Fund (STF) provided in the Lands Act.

In 2016, the Jubilee regime used the STF, which is a revolving fund to buy the 930-acre Waitiki Farm in Likoni to settle squatters.

“We as Kenya Kwanza have signed a commitment with PAA on matters they brought to the table; matters on land, economy, and inclusivity of Coast people,” Ruto said at his Karen home.

PAA is the latest party to decamp to Kenya Kwanza from Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja, after Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap.

“In the past, during campaigns, presidential candidates have always verbally promised Coast people heaven only to forget once they get into power. This time, the people are not going to accept anything short of a written commitment that can legally be enforced,” said Mr Kingi.

Kingi’s other demands include operationalisation of Lamu port and ensuring locals are employed and benefit from it, revival of cashew nuts, coconut and Bixa industries, involving local communities in the management and benefit-sharing of the resources associated with the Blue Economy.

PAA also wants a benefit-sharing scheme between the national government and local communities in mining and other natural resources; review of the Coast Guard Act to enhance protection of local communities’ fishing and other economic activities; and equitable representation of Coast region in government appointments, civil service and disciplined forces.

Mr Kingi said his party had opted out of Azimio due to what he termed  “opaque decision making and secrecy”.

“The legal process for PAA to be legally in Azimio could not be completed as it was frustrated by refusal of Azimio to make available a copy of the agreement which would have enabled PAA to table the same before its NEC for ratification as demanded by the party constitution,” Kingi said.

By having Kingi in his camp, Ruto hopes to do better than he and Uhuru did in the past two elections in Kilifi County. He said he was aware of the influence Kingi wielded.

Raila will tour Coast this week and Kilifi is part of the itinerary.

Kingi yesterday said he would convince the people that they had a better chance with Ruto as president.

“Apart from the usual rhetoric during rallies, there is nothing to show in terms of commitment for Coast people in Azimio,” he said.

On SGR, Ruto did not state which programmes will be reversed but debate has been raging over the directive to haul all containers from the port through the SGR.

The DP has been an ardent supporter of the SGR, but in recent days said the project was to be undertaken concurrently with the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) venture.

Raila has also promised to fast-track the Dongo Kundu SEZ to create jobs for youth laid off due to the SGR.

Last week, banker Suleiman Shahbal said he stepped down for Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir in the Mombasa governor race after Raila tasked him to lead the SEZ projects.