November 22nd 2017

Entertainment / What’s Trending

Respected hotelier Mohammed Hersi forced to apologise for bigoted tweets on Jicho Pevu

To what extent Mr Hersi’s personal fortunes have shaped his political views isn't clear from the debate, but as the chief executive of Heritage Group he has distinguished himself as a servant for the economic interests that have kept both the Coast, Isiolo and Northern Kenya in a state of poverty.

By John Onyandojonyando@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 02 Apr 2017 13:14 EAT

(L-R): Heritage Hotels CEO Mohammed Hersi seen in this photo with Tourism minister Najib Balala and hotelier Zulfakir Harunani at the English Point Marina in Mombasa last June.

Respected Mombasa hotelier Mohammed Hersi has apologised for making demeaning and potentially bigoted comments on former television journalist Mohammad Ali's bid to become the MP for Nyali constituency in Mombasa. Mr Hersi, who apparently does not like Moha's journalistic and political styles, was forced to correct himself after his tweets suggested that the former journalist should not contest a political seat in Mombasa but go back to his parent's homeland of Isiolo.

After one Tweet in his exchange explicitly questioning the aspirant's right to contest the Nyali seat went viral, with many Kenyans expressing concern that his views were bigoted and unbecoming of a person in public appointment (he is a member of the Kenya Tourism Board), the CEO of the Kenyatta-family owned Heritage Hotels beat a hasty retreat through a Twitter apology, and, subsequently a longish Facebook post in which he adamantly claimed the moral high ground on the subject.

Through the Facebook post, Mr Hersi was able to rally many who came to his defence but still faced a great deal of others demanding accountability for his poor judgment and choice of words. Standing out from the loyal crowd of Mr Hersi's defenders were some unforgiving comments that urged the hotelier to own up to his mistake and unreservedly withdraw his offending comments rather than trying to cover up for his infractions.

One respondent, Kinyanjui Kombani, wrote: “I was following the thread, Sir. You clearly wrote these words; ‘My friend you don't belong here. If anything you a the power broker & Isiolo is calling for you where your brethren are more marginalised’. ‘He should stop misleading people his brethren in Isiolo need him more.’ Anybody has a right to vie anywhere. The voters decide. And if you feel you didn't do anything wrong, why did you tweet: ‘Apologies folks and I can only wish him the best of luck?’”

The large legion of Mr Hersi’s supporters tried to finish off the debate, but Kinyanjui Kombani stuck to the facts of the matter, responding coolly. “On a personal level, he can make any comments on his political affiliations. As a public official (Kenya Tourism Board and CEO of Heritage Hotels), he knows best to keep certain opinions unexpressed. The danger of this is, despite tweeting as an individual, people will take it that one is tweeting on behalf of someone else, KTB? Heritage? In fact, someone has used Mohammed Hersi's own comment to say he is tweeting like that because of the hotels' association with Kenyatta. A statement like 'You don't belong here' can be taken to out of context and blown out of proportion. My take, we should let our actions be above reproach. We should discuss issues not personalities.”

The debate emboldened others to teach Mr Hersi a few lessons on tolerance and truthfulness. Idhow Yusuf Hussein wrote, “Please share the other screenshots if this one was selective. Whether an aspirant is in touch with the people or not will be decided by the people on 8th August 2017, but saying that he 'Doesn't belong in Nyali ' doesn't mean the same. You have categorically decided that and you cannot go on to explain it in any other way. If you to prove to someone how your one vote will go, then its something else but Moha jicho Pevu is an aspirant in Nyali and you must learn to be tolerant with him and any other who doesn't subscribe to your ideology.”

To what extent Mr Hersi’s personal fortunes as a top-flying hotelier have shaped his political views isn't clear from the debate, but as the chief executive of Heritage Group he has distinguished himself as a servant of the wealthy, landed economic class whose interests in the Coast, Isiolo and Northern Kenya are widely seen as antithetical to the region's development. Moha, on the other hand, proved through his journalism that he is a courageous champion for the downtrodden everywhere.

Whether Moha loses or wins is up to Nyali voters, who are also best placed to decide whether his candidature there is beneficial or not. Having worked in Mombasa longer, Mr Hersi probably believes he has become a son of the soil, which may be true. That, however, does not give him the power to apportion rights for those running for seats there.

Perhaps the lesson the CEO, whose use of social media is well recognised, should learn from the experience is never to delve too much into politics until that day he will feel motivated enough to join the profession himself. But for this his emotional composure has been tested and found wanting. He very easily veered into character attacks on Moi when their debate should have been police killings in Eastleigh and Moha's, positions on the issue and his suitability as a leader.

Below is Mr Hersi's unedited Facebook post in full-

"My attention has been drawn to selective screen shots from my good friend Mohamed Ali of jicho Pevu. My beef with with him started when I came out to comment on the Eastleigh incident and he referred to me as sycophant. I am a voter in Nyali and the constituency is just not about Nyali. We have many places like that are needy Maweni , Ziwa la Ngombe etc that require serious attention he has never shared his manifesto and plan for Nyali. As a tourism stakeholders I will play my part to ensure we get the right leadership.

"You can vie for any seat anywhere but the voters are the ones to decide but fact remains that Mohamed has no connection with this constituency let alone Mombasa. We are very careful that we do not end up with a fly-in MP who abandons us once he gets elected .Kenyans can vie for a seat anywhere as long as you have a connection with a place. Junet in Migori has lived there for ages, Dawood in Meru and right here in Nyali our current MP is Hon Awiti Bolo. Hon Awiti has lived and continues to live in Mombasa . He has serious investment in Nyali. He has been involved matters Nyali for more than two decades.

"Whipping emotions on religious lines will also not get you votes , Twitter or FB followers don't translate to votes. I wish Mohamed my namesake the best of luck as he transitions from Journalism to politics .I am a patriotic Kenyan who repects everyone without a tinge of prejudism and I am not about to change. As always I choose ro remain an optimist."

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