Veteran politicians make a comeback in Coast political arena

Lawyer Danson Mungatana (right) accompanied by his wife Aisha Chidzuga after he was declared Tana River County senate elect.

Photo credit: Stephen odour I Nation

When newly elected senators and MPs are sworn in, three from the Coast region will be making a comeback after years in the political cold.

Veteran politician Samuel Gonzi Rai won the Kinango constituency seat, which he held for 20 years in separate terms.

Mr Rai (Pamoja Africa Alliance) garnered 16,331 votes against his close rival, UDA’s Benjamin Dalu Tayari’s, who polled 13,025 votes. Mr Tayari had ousted him in 2017.

Mr Rai said he ran because of pressure from voters, who he said missed his services. He occupied the seat under Kanu from 1992 to 1997, when he was edged out by Simeon Mkalla.

In the 2002 and 2007 elections, he won under Ford People, and in 2013 he won on a TNA ticket. He was an assistant minister for Lands in the Kibaki Cabinet between 2008 and 2013.

He acknowledged in an interview yesterday the challenges ahead in trying to resolve his constituents’ problems if the government does not find alternative ways of channelling more money to constituencies.

He was referring to the Supreme Court decision that declared the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and ward funds unconstitutional and illegal.

"I intend to fight poverty in the constituency, but this comes with challenges considering we have been using CDF to address issues in this marginalised constituency," Mr Rai said.

He added: "Government should respect the court but it should seek ways to ensure such funds reach the constituency level."

The MP-elect said the ruling was a big blow to marginalised constituencies, including Kinango.

"I have three things to do – [provide] water, fight illiteracy and improve food security in this constituency," he said.

In Garsen constituency, after two unsuccessful attempts to return to politics, former MP Danson Mungatana can finally celebrate.

Mr Mungatana (United Democratic Alliance) was declared Tana River senator-elect after beating nine opponents by a large margin.

He won with 34,129 votes, defeating his opponents Hassan Dukicha (Jubilee), who received 18,082 and Ali Bule with 14,157. Juma Wario (ODM) received 7,422.

Mr Mungatana spent 10 years in the political cold after losing his parliamentary seat.

"This is a dream come true. It is the genesis of a better future for the people of Tana River County, myself and my family," he said.

Popularly known as "Mla Mamba" for daring Raila Odinga into a political contest, he has been through rough tides in his quest to return to the political arena.

In 2013, Mr Mungatana, a lawyer, tried his luck at the governor’s seat in Tana River and came in fourth.

Again in 2017, he went against the wishes of the Pokomo Council of Elders and tried a second time, only to emerge fourth.

He fell prey to West African conmen, losing Sh76 million after they promised to make him a billionaire.

In 2019, he was arrested by the anti-corruption watchdog for allegedly being involved in the misappropriation of Sh51 million in Kilifi County.

Close friends of President Uhuru Kenyatta also fought his appointment as chairperson of the Kenya Ports Authority in 2014.

In Magarini, Kilifi, Harrison Kombe (ODM) captured the MP’s seat after a five-year absence. He won with 11,946 votes against his competitors Stanley Kenga (UDA), who took 11,925) and Michael Kingi (PAA), who received 7,921.

Mr Kombe, who served for two terms from 2007-2013 and 2013-2017, stoked controversy in 2017 when he claimed he could cure HIV using reflexology therapy.

But National Aids Control Council Coast coordinator Julius Koome said those claims were likely to interfere with the fight against HIV in Kilifi County and should be countered.

Additional reporting by Steven Heywood.

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