Deputy President (DP) William Ruto has pitched camp at the Coast in a bid to eat into the ODM support base in the region ahead of the 2022 elections.
The region has become a battleground for top candidates eyeing the presidency since President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga announced a political ceasefire in March.
The handshake has led to new political formations and re-alignment with some ODM MPs defying the party and backing Mr Ruto’s quest for the top seat.
This, has seen the DP make several trips to the Coast in what is seen as trying to build a team that will support his presidential bid.
The DP’s huge financial muscle and move to dish out development projects has endeared him to many leaders, some of whom have since abandoned Coast political kingpin Hassan Joho to back him.
Before the Uhuru-Raila political union, it had been difficult for Jubilee which performed dismally at the Coast in the last two General Elections to penetrate the region which has been under ODM’s lock and key.
ODM won most of the seats in the six coast counties in 2013 and 2017 polls.
Mr Ruto’s overtures in the region got a boost when Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi who has been one of key opposition pointmen in the region signalled he could work with him ahead of the next elections.
Some of Mr Kingi’s allies including Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa have since thrown their weight behind Mr Ruto for the presidency, hurting Mr Joho’s political camp that has been working to consolidate the coast’s votes.
Mr Joho who is also eyeing the presidency in 2022 met Kanu chairman Gideon Moi who is seen as one of the biggest threats for Mr Ruto’s bid and announced they would work together.
The Coast has been used as a swing vote in the last elections due to lack of a ‘serious’ presidential candidate from the region.
Locals and political observers had however expected Mr Joho and Mr Kingi’s plans to enter the race in 2022 would have changed the situation.
During his visit to Mombasa last week, Mr Odinga who was accompanied by Mr Joho said their push for constitutional changes is to enable area’s like the coast produce a Head of State. Only two communities have been able to produce the presidency since independence.
Last evening, Mr Ruto was expected in Kilifi for an Iftar dinner where Governor Kingi and Ms Jumwa were also expected to be in attendance.
On Sunday, the DP will attend an Iftar dinner in Kwale hosted by the Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Suleiman Dor.
The Iftar dinners come barely a week after Mr Joho hosted Mr Odinga for a similar event.
During the Mombasa Iftar Dinner, Governor Kingi did not turn up though it cannot be confirmed whether he was invited or not.
Mr Kingi and Mr Joho who in the past appeared in public most of the times together speaking in one voice have since been drifting apart after the ‘handshake’ with the former being perceived to be leaning towards Mr Ruto.
Since March, the DP has attended a number of events in Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa counties as he seeks to extend his political wing.
He was in Kwale on Wednesday for World Environment Day and told the residents he would be meeting them again in a couple of days.
Other leaders perceived to be warming up to support the DP include Kwale Senator Issa Boy, MP’s Benjamin Tayari (Kinango), Badi Twalib (Jomvu) and Ali Mbogo (Kisauni).
The DP is also expected to visit the region this week to launch the Vanga-Jengo-Majoreni-Bodo-Ramisi-Shimoni road.
Party Leader. If this is wrong, then the party should start by acting on Raila,” the Magarini MP said.