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Wednesday, 19 Apr 2017 18:31 EATyarriska90som@live.com
Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Mohamud is making a second attempt for the Wajir County governorship on a solid base of accomplishments that has seen him emerge as a latent force in the run-up to the awaited August general elections. Mr Mohamud, 65, a member of the Jubilee Party, is running against the man who beat him in 2013, Ahmed Abdullahi of the Orange Democratic Movement.
Following that election, Mr Mohamud, who has a long public service career straddling education, public administration and politics, wore yet another cap of diplomacy after being appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He has resigned from the position in readiness for the elections.
With less than four months to the polls, the political dynamics in Wajir County have undergone a seachange from 2013 and Mr Mohamud is seen as having incredibly good odds of clinching the seat this time around. Key among his enablers is his experience. From early beginnings as a teacher and later educationist, he has served Wajir County for decades and achieved good results wherever he has worked.
And since his debut in politics in the 1997 general elections when he won the Wajir East parliamentary seat on a Kanu ticket, Mr Mohamud has built networks in the region for over 20 years. Nationally, he rose from being an ordinary MP to the roles of assistant minister and subsequently minister, serving for 10 years under former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.
Immediately upon joining parliament, he paid close attention to education, investing heavily on programmes that saw an expansion of schools in the region. When he got into Parliament, Wajir East had only three secondary schools, but he was able to win Dutch government support which helped establish many more institutions in the area.
Healthcare was another area he touched, initiating the development of several health facilities and equipping others with essential medicines while promoting the education and employment of health personnel from the region.
While a member of the Kibaki government in 2007, he led negotiations that saw the commercialization of the Wajir Airport, which for decades had functioned as a military airbase. As the minister for regional authorities, he oversaw the first largescale operational reforms at Ewaso Nyiro Authority which revitalized the institution in terms of management structure and delivery of services in northern Kenya. He also organized the grant of Sh700 million for expansion of Wajir District Hospital which he says up to now has not been used for the purpose.
As the leading leader from northern Kenya during the period, he was also instrumental in negotiating the Garissa-Modogashe road. Locally in Wajir, he was known as a peacemaker, always at hand to promote peaceful co-existence and dialogue among the various clans among whom clashes flared from time to time.
Running on such a record of accomplishments, the ambassador’s supporters had assumed that winning the gubernatorial seat would be a walkover. But that was never to be as Mr Abdullahi, a political newcomer, marshalled the support of key leaders from Tarbaj, Elds, Wajir West and Wajir North that saw him win narrowly by approximately 5,000 votes (40,000 to 35,000).
However, as he sets against Mr Abdullahi in 2017, the campaign is pregnant with symbolism about both the unmet expectations from Mr Abdullahi’s tenure and shifts in political and clan dynamics. First is the near universal support among elected leaders the ambassador now enjoys, which he lacked in 2013. Of the nine parliamentarians from Wajir (six representing constituency seats, one senator, one nominated senator and the women representative) only two are not supporting the ambassador.
His vote-rich Fai clan of the Degodia who inhabit Wajir East and Tarbaj constituencies are solidly behind his bid, providing nearly 37,000 of the registered voters. The Ogaden of the South, who currently have about 42,000 votes, supported a third party candidate in 2013 and have a candidate this time too in the name of Ahmed Mohamed Hassan of the PDR party.
Like in 2013, Mr Abdullahi is expected to sweep votes from his Matan clan that inhabit Wajir West, while Eldas of the Jibril family of Degodia will be in play with the ambassador having the upper hand. In the competitive areas, his own standing is high and in addition he has strong support of the groups' main leaders, including Dr Abduallahi Ali Kabreta of the Ajuran clan, the North’s seniormost politician who is also running for the senate seat, and Eldas MP Adan Keynan, an aggressive campaigner. This surge of popularity for the ambassador contrasts with the governor’s grapplings with discontent about incomplete projects, perceived corruption in the procurement of services and nepotism.
The ambassador is selling himself by pointing to his work in the region over the years. As the focus in county politics shifts to developmental achievements, his campaign has prepared a list of the things he has done in infrastructure, education, human resources development and health among other areas. “I have worked for all of Wajir throughout my life,” he said, enumerating some of his plans even in his most recent job as ambassador. While in Saudi Arabia, he organized Sh500 million water projects for arid and semi-arid regions.
Mr Mohamud says he has the needed background to perform as governor. As a minister during the Kibaki government, his ministry was ranked as the best performing under the performance contract assessments in 2006/07. “This is as good as management can get,” he told this writer during an interview.
Sensing his unfolding advantages, the ambassador’s opponents have begun to dig dirt around him. Last week, claims emerged in some social media posts alleging that his academic qualifications were questionable, allegations he firmly rejects.“Those allegations don’t hold any water. My credentials are unimpeachable and I will them to all the legal agencies when required.
"Those who are peddling these rumours should play positive politics. My qualifications are not a matter to speculation and if anyone needs the record let them follow the right avenues,” he said.
Edith Kariuki contributed reporting for this article from Nairobi
Mohamed is a contributing reporter for the Kenya Free Press based in Wajir County