Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s quest to run for the presidency in 2022 has run into headwinds after a section of leaders disowned his bid and endorsed Kilifi County chief Amason Kingi as the region’s political kingpin.
Interviews with various leaders and political analysts revealed that at the heart of Mr Joho’s latest challenge is the traditional Mijikenda/Arab divide, which has in the past dictated Coast politics.
Mr Joho’s critics insist the region’s kingpin must come from the populous Mijikenda community to which Mr Kingi belongs.
The Mombasa governor, on the other hand, is from the Swahili community, but is accused of aligning himself with the Arabs.
Speaking during the burial of former Ganze MP Joseph Kingi last week, Kilifi North MP Owen Baya insisted that the Mijikenda community would back one of their own for the presidency in 2022, a reference to the Kilifi governor.
“The Mijikenda community controls almost 90 per cent of the Coast vote and we have decided that it is Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi who will lead us to the next government in 2022. Let us support him,” Mr Baya said.
The fiery MP is a close ally of Mr Kingi, whom he served as his county secretary in his first term as governor.
Mr Baya was the politician behind the secession debate at the Coast, which was later supported by Mr Kingi.
The statement by Mr Baya that they will rally behind a Mijikenda leader at the Coast means that Mr Joho will have to work harder to win the community’s vote, which is crucial for his presidential campaign.
After the announcement by Mr Baya, another push for the same was by Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who also endorsed Mr Kingi to be the leader of the coastal region.
“The only person who should lead us to success is Governor Amason Kingi. No other leader at the Coast has the qualities which Governor Kingi has. He is our choice and as the Mijikenda, we must support him,” she said.
The region has almost 1.7 million votes and the number is expected to reach two million by 2022.
The leaders used the burial ceremony to make the declaration of plans to form a new political party for the region.
They said they would traverse the country to market the party and ensure it forms the next government.
Mr Kingi said the region is ready to unite and soon.
“Kenyans will know the true stand of the region which has been marginalised by the past regimes.
“We are setting up our own house and very soon, a new picture of the Coast will be painted to Kenyans,” he said.
“Everything is fine and we shall no longer listen to orders from other parties outside this region,” the governor said.
Mr Kingi said he was ready to support anyone chosen by the people to lead them because his sole purpose is to have an independent region politically.
The governor announced a series of countrywide rallies, conventions and summits to popularise the new political party, which he said will be announced soon.
“By next year, everything will have changed. We want to be partners in the 2022 government,” he said.
“Let us not betray the will of the people. For example, if it is governor Kingi the people have selected to lead them, we must support him.
"If it is Dan Kazungu or any other person chosen, we all need to throw our support behind him,” he added.
Coast human rights activist Nagib Shamsan said Mr Joho’s chances of getting the Mijkenda votes are slim and hence a blow to his ambition.
He said the land factor, which has for ages caused bad blood between the Mijikenda and the Arabs, still remains unresolved.
“Governor Joho has aligned himself with the Arabs. Many Mijikenda communities feel that the Arabs were responsible for the many land problems they are experiencing,” he said.
“The governor has been nicknamed ‘Sultan’, and this word always leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of Mijikenda people who think that it is because of the Sultan rule along the Coast that they face problems.”