Top Stories / Counties
Thursday, 03 Nov 2016 17:12 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is undoubtedly the most popular young politician in Kenya today. The other politician who comes close is Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, but Sonko's power-base is restricted to the capital, unlike Mr Joho's national following built over a decade of his close relationship with CORD leader Raila Odinga. A month ago, Joho electrified opposition supporters by staging a mammoth rally in Mombasa at short notice, a success he followed shortly thereafter by organising opposition rallies in Nairobi.
With the support he commands in CORD, Joho's re-election is as good as a done deal. The governor is the face of coastal politics as well, never shying away from taking the government head-on wherever he feels the interests of coastal people are being trampled on. Early this year, he was in the news for snubbing President Uhuru Kenyatta's tour of Mombasa County, demanding to be fully briefed about the president's itinerary in the region before he could join the head of state.
But even as Joho's supporters revere their national hero, many are the ones who recognise that his local administration has struggled with many of the pledges the governor made in 2013 - including promises to set up a recycling plant, to improve security and create jobs, among others. Nine months to the polls, construction has not started on the recycling plant, security in the town is deteriorating, and job creation is a work in progress.
The latter two are mainly functions of the national government. Yet in the recent past, many local activists have emerged accusing the governor of different failures. A source at Joho's office suspects the involvement of a foreign hand in the organisation of some of events where questions are being raised about the governor's performance. "In the last month alone, we have seen three supposed youth empowerment forums where the subject was how to undermine the governor," our source said.
The source was unsure whether Joho's opponents within the CORD coalition, Hassan Omar (who is the Mombasa senator) and Hezron Awiti (MP for Nyali) are capitalising on the well-heeled anti-Joho campaign or are working in cahoots with it. Both are members of the Wiper Democratic Movement led by CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka. Former Kisauni MP Ananiah Mwaboza and Wiper Party's 2013 candidate for the governorship Suleiman Shabhal are also challenging for the seat on Jubilee Party ticket.
Ahead of the elections, some local groups, such as traders and hawkers, who were recently evicted by the county government from the ferry area, have reopened issues the governor says had been settled with them. Mombasa county askaris have clashed with hawkers for much of Joho's term. In 2014, when the traders were being ejected from the central business district, there were bloody street clashes between hawkers and county inspectorate officers. The county government then built stalls for the traders, which some of them have recently been claiming that the rent being charged is too high and want it renegotiated downwards.
Last year, the county banned registration of diesel tuk tuks, in order to control their high number. Tuk Tuk association chairman Chrispinus Opondo said his members lost jobs. These kinds of issues are given a tribal tinge in a city where the various tribes have coexisted till the last elections.
A local analyst reported that Senator Omar, in his bid to gain traction among CORD supporters, has recruited his campaign groups mainly from the Kamba community in Changamwe. At the same time, Mr Awiti has claimed Joho engineered the aborted removal of County Assembly Speaker Thaddeus Rajwayi, in addition to ordering the eviction of Luo mechanics at Jua Kali area in Mvita. Joho denies all these accusations, saying for instance that he was not involved in the attempt to remove Rajwayi.