Senate Speaker Amason Kingi’s political journey has been that of the quintessential rising star.
Kingi was on Thursday overwhelmingly elected Speaker of the Senate, after garnering 46 out 67 votes, making him arguably the fourth most powerful man in the country.
Born in 1974 in Magarini in Kilifi County, Kingi becomes the youngest speaker in Kenya’s history at the age of 48 years in a race that saw his main challenger and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka withdraw at the last minute.
In the 15 years that the former Kilifi governor has been in politics, the University of Nairobi-trained lawyer has experienced meteoric stardom in the political arena. He made his debut in politics when he trounced Harrison Kombe of the Shirikisho Party of Kenya for the Magarini Constituency seat setting in motion a journey that also set him up as the youngest minister among the 41 in the Late Mwai Kibaki’s Grand Coalition government at the age of 33.
After practicing law in a private firm in Mombasa where he was an advocate and partner between 2000 and 2003 the Senate Speaker’s political journey began when he served as a District Coordinator for the Kilifi District under the Constitution of Kenya Reform Commission. After his parliamentary victory, Kingi served as the Minister for East African Community Affairs between 2008 and 2010 before he was moved to the Ministry of Fisheries Development in 2013.
During his tenure at the helm of the EAC ministry, Kingi oversaw the signing of the Common Market Protocol on 20 November 2009, which marked the 10th anniversary of the revived EAC. On 30 June 2010 at the National Assembly Kingi issued a Ministerial Statement on the EAC Common Market Protocol making a strong case for its ratification. The minister used the opportunity to outline the ‘Four Freedoms’ enshrined in the Protocol: free movement of goods, labour, services, and capital. The benefits of these freedoms would “boost trade and investments and make the region more productive and prosperous”.
The minister then almost kicked a diplomatic row in March 2009 within the region when he called for the decentralisation of some of the Community’s organs such as the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to other countries within the region. He would go ahead to become the pioneer Kilifi governor under the 2010 Constitution and defended his seat in the subsequent General Election in 2017. Former Lands Chief Administrative Secretary Gideon Mung’aro has since taken over from him.
Once an ardent supporter of Azimio la Umoja party leader Raila Odinga, Kingi switched political alliances on May 2022 in the heat of the campaigns. He ditched his political mentor Raila and joined President-elect William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza. His Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) party entered a deal within Kenya Kwanza that propelled him to the Senate seat.
“We are grateful to the President-elect for the respect and honour of granting us as the coastal people the position of the Senate Speaker. This seems to be the beginning of better things for the region that has been neglected since independence,” said Nyali MP Mohamed Ali.
Today, Kingi in the absence of the former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is the undisputed Coast kingpin only comparable to the stature of independence minister the late Ronald Ngala and former Local Government Minister the late Karisa Maitha. Kingi, a Giriama, had been under intense pressure from Mijikenda elders to take the mantle of leadership for the region.
The Mijikenda forms 70 per cent of the population on the Coast, and this gives a leader from the community a strong base and leverage as shown in the late 1990s and early 2000 when the late Maitha galvanized the region behind him. In the previous interview, Kingi said he was determined to lead the region out of what he termed as years of political divisions he claimed have been exploited by outside forces.
Before, Thursday’s sprint into political stardom, there had been evident jostling for the position of the political kingpin with Joho. Both with oratory skills and witty, Kingi and Joho even though they enjoyed the political camaraderie were always on war path for the region’s spokesman position.
Their departure was that Joho believed that he could be the coast main man by working with his political father Raila while Kingi insisted that there was need for a regional party and went ahead to form PAA.
“I am determined to lead the region to unity, times of using the Coast as a pedestal to power is over. We need to have a voice and platform that we will use to bargain with the rest of the country,” Kingi said.
“My push is not a selfish one, the people everywhere are seeking a party that we will use to argue issues unique to us as the Coast. I have decided to champion the people’s aspiration,” he said.
Then, Kingi said he was only doing the people’s bidding. “They have been pushing for this for many years now, I have yielded to their request to lead the process that I will now seek to have everybody on board,” he said.
Now emboldened by the new position, leaders in the region believe that he has the opportunity to champion the interest of the region together with Ruto allies like Nyali MP, Kilifi North MP Owen Baya, former Kwale governor Salim Mvurya and former Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa among others.
“What does the EAC headquarters mean? If it means the secretariat, then the treaty does not have to be amended. But if it means all the EAC organs in Arusha, we might certainly have to move to amend it and that will give us equity and ownership with the larger community.” Kingi said at the time.