October 22nd 2017

Top Stories / National

Senator’s death, Mwakwere defection push Kwale to top election agenda

After losing in 1997, he contested in 2002 but stayed out of the 2007 elections. "Never a man to play sycophancy games, he never followed national politicians for handouts as many of the current politicians do, he maintained his respect among the people," said a supporter of the senator from Mombasa

By Reuben Gitahigitahireuben@gmail.comSunday, 12 Feb 2017 15:24 EAT

(L-R): Joho, Kingi, Aisha and other leaders campaigning for ODM during the Malindi by-election in 2016.

No one could have anticipated that the sleepy Kwale County in the coast could play a decisive role in the upcoming August general elections. But this is exactly what has happened with two hitherto unrelated events that have thrust the region into the top agenda for the Jubilee and CORD political camps ahead of the election. 

The death of Kwale senator Boy Juma Boy this morning at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi came shortly before former cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere's triumphant entry into the country following his resignation from his position as Kenya's ambassador to Tanzania and defection to the opposition ODM party. Mr Mwakwere had announced his intention to defect from Jubilee to the ODM two months ago, but the activities marking his reception to the party today were dramatic, bringing together most Coast opposition leaders.

As per the law, a by-election will be held for the Kwale senatorial seat before the general elections scheduled for August. Even though the new senator will serve barely two or three months, his/her election campaign will focus the nation's spotlight on Kwale, with Jubilee and CORD coalitions expected to make the race a do-or-die battle. "The by-election will provide a dress rehersal in coast politics and indicate which way the region's vote will go," said a political analyst.

A fearless trade unionist and astute debater in politics who once served as parliamentary chief whip during the first multiparty parliament from 1992-97, Mr Boy came from a political family. His father Juma Boy Mwandeyi represented the Kwale Central constituency between 1974-83. In the 1983 general elections, while the younger Boy was a senior official of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, his father died in the middle of the campaigns, and the voters asked him to succeed his father.

He went ahead to win re-elections until 1997, when ruling party honchos turned against him, according to his accounts of his sudden loss in that year's election. After losing the election, he was thrown into relative political oblivion, engaging in fishing activities. He tried his hand again in 2002 but stayed out of the 2007 elections. "Never a man to play sycophancy games, he never followed national politicians for handouts as many of the current generation of politicians do, he maintained his respect among the people," said a supporter of the senator from Mombasa.

Mr Boy made a comeback in 2013 general elections, as senator for Kwale, and he immediately distinguished himself as an eloquent debater on the senate floor. He was also one of the main backers of CORD leader Raila Odinga in the coast, along with Mombasa and Kilifi governor Hassan Joho and Amason Kingi and women representatives Aisha Jumwa and Mishi Mboko.

As a politician who had been instrumental in consolidating the opposition's voice in the Coast region, the campaign to replace the senator will be hard-fought. The ruling Jubilee Party has made inroads in the county. From virtually no representation in 2013, the party has won the defection of Governor Salim Mvurya and women representative Zainab Chidzuga. But the ODM, CORD or NASA woulkd not like to lose in a county where it already commands near universal support.

That the senator died on the same day that Mr Mwakwere was making his grand return will stir the region's politics. Mr Mwakwere, who until Friday was Kenya's high commissioner to Tanzania, was welcomed by jubilant ODM supporters on the Kenya-Tanzania border in Lunga Lunga and was this evening set to address several campaign rallies.

The writer is an experienced journalist, lecturer and researcher based in Nairobi





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