Tough battle in Kilifi as Kenya Kwanza team out to spoil Raila’s party
The Kilifi governor election will be a litmus test for the Kenya Kwanza Alliance to prove its supremacy against the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party.
Key leaders from the county, including Governor Amason Kingi and Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, fell out with Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and started drumming up support for Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid.
The two won the 2017 election on an ODM ticket but have on several occasions sworn to wipe out the party from the region. The Orange party also bagged all the MP seats in Kilifi.
The gubernatorial race will be a do or die for Ms Jumwa, who is the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate, and Mr Kingi’s Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) party to prove that ODM is losing ground in the region.
However, ODM is keen on cementing its popularity and has fielded former Lands and Devolution chief administrative secretary Gideon Mung’aro for governor.
Mr Kingi, who is serving his second and final term, is seeking to influence the election’s outcome by fronting lawyer George Kithi on a PAA party ticket.
Also in the race are Mr Franco Esposito, a Kenyan of Italian descent (Independent), Mr Michael Tinga (Ford Kenya) and Mr Alphonce Dzombo Mbaru (Safina).
Analysts say with Ford Kenya, UDA and PAA allied to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, their candidates are likely to split votes giving an edge to ODM, which still has considerable support in Kilifi.
But away from the party politics, the election is turning out to be a contest between which candidate can revamp the tourism, fishing, agriculture, education and health sectors to spur economic growth, and deal with poverty and perennial famine that continues to besiege the county every year.
The aspirants are also promising to tackle teenage pregnancies and sexual exploitation of minors.
Ms Jumwa, the only female candidate, has unveiled the ‘Big Seven’ development agenda. These are programmes in education, health, water, agriculture and fisheries, trade, commerce and industry, tourism, culture, environment, and women and youth empowerment.
The Malindi MP says her administration will provide universal healthcare for the elderly and the vulnerable through the National Hospital Insurance Fund during her first 100 days in office.
Ms Jumwa also intends to increase funding and to build and fully equip the County Teaching and Referral Hospital.
“I’ll restructure the Kilifi County Government system to ensure human resources benefit the people. I’ll reorganise the boda boda sector as a viable industry, especially for the youth. My government will also ensure communities’ access to water,” Ms Jumwa said.
To improve enrolment in nursery schools, she promises to provide free milk to all learners.
Mr Mung’aro plans to revive the agriculture sector and pump more resources into addressing food insecurity in his first 100 days in office.
“I pioneered the current robust irrigation farming along River Sabaki that has empowered many farmers with pumps and irrigation equipment, and farmers who are practising agriculture along the banks near Lango Baya have benefitted from it,” he said.
Mr Mung’aro said his administration will also upgrade health centres in rural areas and stock all the facilities in the county with drugs.
“This will save women and children the burden of travelling long distances in search of medication,” he said.
Mr Mung’aro plans to initiate programmes to address unemployment by giving job opportunities to more than 20,000 residents. He aims to set up a textile industry in each of the seven constituencies.
Meanwhile, Mr Kithi says he will identify ideal agricultural locations for large-scale irrigation schemes to boost food production and ensure food security.
“I’ll set up and fund a bursary scheme that will identify the beneficiaries and ensure no child is denied education due to poverty. I’ll focus on mitigating early pregnancies, child marriages and other harmful cultural practices that deny the girl child access to education,” he said.
To revamp tourism, the lawyer plans to bring together all stakeholders in the industry and international partners to craft a robust strategy to revive the sector.
Mr Kithi will further incorporate marketing strategies to attract international tourists.
To address perennial water challenges, the lawyer said he will bring together the service providers and stakeholders to map out areas that need urgent intervention.
“Where the situation is dire, I’ll drill boreholes as a short-term measure as we come up with a strategy for taking piped water supplies to villages as the long-term plan,” he added.
Tractors and productivity
Thorny land issues are not lost to the lawyer. He plans to liaise with Ministry of Lands and National Land Commission officials to prioritise and scale up demarcation, allocation and issuance of title deeds to residents to address the squatter problem.
Mr Tinga will prioritise education and agriculture sectors in the first 100 days.
In Agriculture, Mr Tinga says his administration will buy tractors for farmers to boost productivity.
“That will also create jobs for our youth,” he said.
Mr Tinga said he will put up a level-five hospital in each sub-county to deal with maternal and infant deaths caused by pregnant women having to travel long distances in search of maternal services.
Mr Esposito is banking on his Italian networks to revive the county’s economy, which is mainly dependent on tourism. He said he would launch his manifesto soon, which focuses on improving health, education and the economy.
“We have a bigger picture of how to make Kilifi great using our cultural heritage and the many resources available. This county has a good potential for growth, so we’re prepared to bring these changes to our people,” he said.
Additional reporting by Alex Kalama.