December 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

How Joho turned tables on Uhuru’s plan to humiliate him in his backyard

The ceremony had been planned a dressing down of Joho. According to a speaking schedule of the event shared with us, national government functionaries had planned to give two local MPs Mungaro and Awiti, and cabinet secretary Najib Balala prominent time to warn Joho about his “excessive politicking"

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 06 Jan 2017 10:43 EAT

Governor Joho addressing Bamburi residents yesterday during the president's visit to Mombasa County. (Photo: Courtesy/The Star).

The exchange between Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho and President Uhuru Kenyatta at yesterday’s launch of the Mombasa Storm Water and Drainage project in Bamburi has dominated social media for nearly 24 hours. At the ceremony, the governor audaciously accused the president of marginalizing Coast region and taking credit for development projects he did not initiate in order to “deceive voters” that Jubilee was working for them.

From interviews with a number of stakeholders at the event, the Kenya Free Press has learnt the governor went ahead of a carefully arranged plan to discredit his own administration. The ceremony had been planned to end up as a dressing down of Joho who had skipped three functions of the president’s. According to a speaking schedule of the event shared with us, national government functionaries had planned to give two local MPs, Gideon Mungaro and Hezron Awiti, and cabinet secretary Najib Balala prominent time to warn Joho about his “excessive politicking”.

The plot included Mr Joho being scheduled to speak at the start of the event, a clear breach from protocol where he should have been the one to co-host the event with the main national government representative who should introduce the president. The advent of devolution has precipitated protocol hitches at many events, but the norm is for the governor to co-host events wherever the president travels, except for political events.

Yesterday, Joho was to speak early in the event and then give his opponents Gideon Mung'aro and Hezron Awiti an opportunity to ridicule him. Cabinet secretary for tourism Najib Balala would speak the last before the president. “The governor raised question about the protocol, but he was told the programme couldn’t be changed, that the government wanted him to speak about the region’s problems and give other officials time to respond,” one of Joho’s handlers told us.

The Governor took the gauntlet and challenged the president to show what he had for Mombasa and Coast residents. “Nionyeshe hata mradi mmjoa ambao serikali ya Jubilee imeanzisha hapa pwani...siasa ni kujitetea. Huu mradi rais amekuja kufungua leo ulianzishwa mwaka wa 2010 na unafadhiliwa na World Bank. Wakati huo serikali ya Jubilee haikuwa mamlakani.”

(Show me even one project the Jubilee government has initiated in the coast region. Politics is about expressing a people’s grievances and we here have not seen any project initiated by the Jubilee government. This project the president has come to launch began in the year 2010 and is supported by the World Bank. Jubilee was not in power then).

He also said: “We want to see the billions (of shillings) that have been disbursed to other areas today brought to Mombasa," and dismissed the president’s and other Jubilee leaders' visit in Mombasa as a "tourism trip to benefit our hotels".

The president could only watch in disbelief, but he maintained his composure even as MPs Mungaro and Awiti and CS Balala were evidently agitated, while chants of Joho! Joho! rented the air with the crowds urging the governor on.

After the governor had finished, the MPs took the platform but they had been deflated and could only speak angrily about Joho’s “disrespect” to the president. “It is petty for a leader to criticise the President for completing projects regardless of whoever initiated them. We have had instances in the region where elected MPs have failed or refused to complete projects because they were started by their predecessor," said Mr Mung'aro.

On his part, Mr Awiti defended the Jubilee government's development record in the region, saying: "The biggest problems we have in this county is discrimination along religious and tribal lines. The county cannot account for billions it is allocated every financial year."

When the President spoke, he did not refer directly to Joho's criticism or identify the governor by name but accused the Mombasa county government of delaying the process of allocating space at the newly built Kongowea market, which he launched in December 2015.

"We launched the Kongowea market almost a year ago and I'm told traders have not been allowed to operate from there. Can the county hasten the process," said the president.

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