Coast leaders meet over regional unity, how to engage Ruto

A section of coast leaders led by CSs Salim Mvurya, Aisha Jumwa and former Mombasa Governor Ali Joho during the breakfast meeting convened by Senate Speaker Amason Kingi on October 19, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

More than 50 politicians from Coast are warming up to engagements with President William Ruto, in what they say is championing the region’s development.

The leaders from across the political divide on Thursday attended a meeting convened by Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, a key point man of the president at the Coast. The meeting aims to have the region speak in one voice.

Among the key resolutions of the Serena Hotel breakfast meeting included crafting a framework of structured engagement with President Ruto, a move that mirrors a push by leaders from other regions in “seeking development”.

Those present included governors from the six coastal counties, senators, Members of Parliament and Speakers of all county assemblies. Former governors, too, attended the meeting, a first of its kind.

The leaders will meet again in Lamu in mid-November to structure their agenda of meeting President Ruto, with Cabinet Secretaries Aisha Jumwa (Gender) and Salim Mvurya (Mining and Blue Economy) tasked to facilitate the same. 

Kingi, who has, on several instances, attempted to rally the Coast behind one political movement,  said the move would ensure the people are involved in deciding matters of interest.

He, however, denied the meeting discussed the region’s politics, statements confirmed by other sources who attended the meeting.

“We have never met as leaders from the Coast and that is why we have decided to set our political differences aside and seek our region’s development,” the Senate Speaker said.

Former Mombasa Governor Ali Joho speaks after the breakfast meeting convened by Senate Speaker Amason Kingi on October 19, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Previous attempts to have the Coast rally behind a single outfit have been futile. The meeting comes at a time when politicians from different regions, such as Mt Kenya and Western are pushing for unity in readiness for the 2027 elections. 

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho described the meeting as “successful”, saying it was the start of the region’s unity journey.

“We will enhance our unity immaterial of political affiliations in what we call the unity of purpose,” said Joho, who revealed plans to have all counties formulate agenda items to be presented to the president in formal engagements.

Among the issues the leaders want addressed is the ongoing debate on the privatisation of Mombasa Port, which, seemingly, pooled them together. President Ruto has however pronounced himself on the matter refuting claims of plans to privatise the port saying it is a noble idea to allow private entities to run key facilities which should not be mistaken with privatising the entire port.

Port privatisation

“As we promised during the 2022 General Election campaigns, the Port of Mombasa will not be privatised,” said Ruto at the UDA Governing Council convention last month. “What we are looking at is expansion so that we serve countries like Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan. We will do this by involving the private sector so that we can increase the efficiency.” 

Leaders who attended the Serena meeting said they want to be involved in discussions about other ports, such as Lamu and Shimoni, insisting the region must have a stake.

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir has been on the forefront opposing the resolution to privatise key facilities of the port, made by Ruto’s Cabinet, without the locals’ involvement. Nassir stated that the proposal was a clear indication that the Kenya Kwanza government had taken the people of the Coast for a ride. 

“We will seek audience with the president to engage constructively so that the coastal people have a say in their affairs,” said Joho.

The leaders also discussed land issues, a political hot potato at the coast, and enhancing the blue economy.