Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential flag-bearer Raila Odinga returns to the Coast today for a four-day tour to consolidate his support base, as he counters Deputy President William Ruto’s political forays in the region with 1.9 million votes.
Mr Odinga, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader, will visit Garsen, Bura and Hola towns in Tana River for a series of political rallies Wednesday.
He will then head to Kilifi (Thursday) and Kwale (Friday) before holding rallies in Mombasa’s Tononoka grounds on Saturday.
The visit comes amid concerns about ODM’s dwindling fortunes in the region that stood with Mr Odinga in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.
DP Ruto has moved to stamp his authority in the region’s politics, bagging the support of governors Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and lately Amason Kingi (Kilifi), the Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) party leader. The DP’s team is fielding ex-governors Issa Timamy (Lamu), Hussein Dado (Tana River), and John Mruttu (Taita Taveta) to reclaim their seats, as well as Hassan Omar (Mombasa), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), and Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi).
Yesterday, Dr Ruto welcomed Mr Kingi, a two-term governor elected on an ODM ticket, into his Kenya Kwanza alliance.
Mr Kingi’s exit has dented Mr Odinga’s support on the Coast, given he was one of his strongest defenders and some of his supporters regard him as one of the region’s spokesmen.
In 2017, ODM also bagged all MP seats in Kilifi, locking out Jubilee despite frequent forays into the county by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Dr Ruto.
ODM also lost in the 2020 Msambweni by-election in which its candidate Omar Boga lost to independent candidate Feisal Bader, whom the DP supported.
It is this performance Dr Ruto’s Coast team says is a useful insight to inform and influence the region’s politics, forcing ODM back to the drawing board.
But ODM officials have dismissed the defections, saying they saw them coming.
“But we are not shaken by the exit of Mr Kingi, we already knew he was on his way out. We are planning our party’s Coast tour to sell our agenda and campaign for an Odinga presidency with or without Kingi,” said ODM Mombasa chairman Mohammed Khamis.
ODM’s contender for the Kilifi governor’s seat, Gideon Mung’aro, described Mr Kingi’s exit as a blessing in disguise that will boost his candidacy.
However, he said ODM must now work extra hard to thwart the United Democratic Alliance’s (UDA) gains in the remaining counties.
“He exited because he wanted to safeguard his interest and not that of residents. The good thing is that Mr Odinga is still favoured and liked by residents, his ideologies are engraved in people’s minds,” Mr Mung’aro told the Nation yesterday.
Dr Ruto, who is Mr Odinga’s main challenger, has been on a charm offensive of perceived ODM strongholds and has won key allies of the former premier in the Coast region.
Yesterday, the DP said there would hammer out a consensus between governor contenders in Kilifi and Mombasa counties after Mr Kingi’s PAA joined his political outfit.
In Mombasa, Dr William Kingi is contesting the governorship against Hassan Omar of UDA. In Kilifi, UDA’s Aisha Jumwa is also in the governor’s race against lawyer George Kithi of PAA.
“As you can see in this meeting, we have Governor Kingi, gubernatorial aspirants Kithi and Ms Jumwa, who are angling for the same seat. They were not in the dark during the agreements, they played a major role in the unity between PAA and Kenya Kwanza. We will agree on how we will work together as PAA and Kenya Kwanza. We know what to do,” Dr Ruto said.
Internal wrangles blamed on clashing ambitions have rocked ODM in the Coast region, with Dr Ruto’s political camp benefiting from the party’s nomination disputes.
Also received in Kenya Kwanza was Ms Selina Maitha, who was Mombasa businessman Suleiman Shahbal’s running mate for the governor’s seat before he dropped out of the race in favour of Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir.
Another politician who joined Kenya Kwanza was Kilifi County Assembly Speaker Jimmy Kahindi.
She had remained in the political cold after Mr Shahbal’s surprise move and unsuccessfully led his supporters in urging the businessman to run as an independent.
Yesterday, the businessman said Ms Maitha’s decision to ditch the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition was an individual one.
Mr Kahindi decamped to the DP Ruto-led political outfit after his rival, Mr Mung’aro, received a direct ODM ticket for the Kilifi governor’s race.
In Kwale, Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani (UDA) was given a direct ticket, while PAA nominated Lung’anzi Mangale, a former senior official with the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), to succeed Governor Salim Mvurya.
Additional reporting by Stephen Oduor