It’s a full-blown scramble for Coast with calls for unity of the region ironically giving rise to divisions among leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, both within and outside their political formations.
In Mr Odinga’s ODM, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has announced plans to unveil a Coast-backed party by June while his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho has urged the region to unite in what he said will give them bargaining power to contest the presidential seat in 2022.
He, however, has not stated whether that means backing Mr Kingi’s proposal of a new party.
In Dr Ruto’s camp, divisions have emerged after Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and her Kilifi North counterpart Owen Baya, both eyeing Mr Kingi’s seat, pulled in different directions on the bid to form a Ruto-leaning party in Coast. This, as Dr Ruto allies in Taita Taveta—including MPs Naomi Shaban (Taveta), Jones Mlolwa (Voi) and Lydia Haika (Woman Rep)—differed, with some warming up to the new United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that has Dr Ruto’s backing.
While Ms Jumwa has already unveiled Kadu Asili as the region’s party, Mr Baya, on the other hand, has announced that the Coast party would be unveiled in March. The Kilifi North lawmaker has declared that the colours, symbol and slogan for his new party are ready, suggesting an outfit different from the Jumwa-backed one.
And so it begins, a huge scramble for the Coast’s 1.7 million votes— the Ruto team battling to get the most out of the predominantly pro-Odinga region.
For Dr Ruto, his winning over of Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, who decamped from ODM before the 2017 election, and his victory in the December 15 Msambweni parliamentary by-election have given him a strong indication that his net might cast deeper and get even more votes in the Coast.
The Jubilee ticket of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Dr Ruto increased their vote count in the Coast from 150,000 in 2013 to 258,000 in 2017—a feat Dr Ruto thinks he can now surpass and even double after making inroads in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu and Taita Taveta counties. Mr Joho and Mr Kingi, on the other hand, are on hand to push back against the Ruto wave in the region that has predominantly voted for Mr Odinga.
Ms Jumwa believes Kadu Asili—which won a seat in Ganze (Francis Bayah) in 2007 and in Kaloleni (Gunga Mwinga) in 2013—is the best vehicle for the region in 2022. She has not spelled out the manifesto of the party that was formed in 2006 and currently does not have a single MP in Parliament.
“We have talked with the DP and agreed that we are going to negotiate as leaders with our own party and so do not listen to those stories by Kingi that we should wait until June to have our party,” Ms Jumwa has said of the Kadu Asili project.
Mr Joho, for his part, argues that the bid to unite the region to back Dr Ruto was misplaced.
“We should not be told that we need to unite because of a certain leader. If we are seeking unity, then let it be for our region. We should unite because of the challenges we are facing as a region,” said Mr Joho when he was in Tana River recently. Ironically, despite his call for unity, Mr Joho is still behind Mr Odinga, whom he deputises in ODM. Some, however, say the new push by the Odinga-allied group for a new party is merely a clever ruse.
Sources have confided in the Nation that the new party calls by Mr Joho and Mr Kingi is a scheme by the ODM leadership. Mr Kingi and Mr Joho are alleged to be planning to consolidate all the parties at the Coast and have them fall under one alliance.
Political analyst Hassan Mwakimako does not read much into the scramble for the region, saying the leaders are pushing for the formation of parties out of their own selfish interest and their political survival.
“If it is about unity, then it is not a must for the region to have a new party or to continue being in parties led by others. They have to come and clean and put their interest aside and that is when they will manage to unite,” he said, adding that the unit of the region will only be achieved when the common wananchi is involved in the discussions.