Governor who turned an entire government into a laughing stock

Sunday March 20 2016

Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho. He was ordered by Interior and Coordination  of National Government Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery to surrender his gun. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho. He was ordered by Interior and Coordination  of National Government Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery to surrender his firearm. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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If there is one thing I admire in leadership, it is strength. That is why I still hold the name of John Michuki in high esteem. A leader whose word nobody takes seriously is not worth anybody’s time.

I have some free advice for this government: If you set out to do something, do it. Especially if it is an order you have given, follow it through. More so after you make a big show in public of wagging your finger. There is nothing as despicable as a public display of weakness.

The other day we were treated to the cat-and-mouse game of the central government versus Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho over the latter’s firearms. The government not only ended up with stinking egg on its face. It looked very foolish.

Interior minister Joseph Nkaissery was in fighting mood throughout the previous week that Mr Joho must give up the guns – three of them, as we learned.

Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet stuck to the theme, emphasising that the licences had been revoked. So did Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho. Not only did the governor brazenly defy them, he even turned up in Nairobi, as if to taunt officialdom at the seat of power.

Then came Monday. General Nkaissery was categorical: Mr Joho must return the guns by 2 pm. If not, he would start the afternoon in jail. The hour came. Nothing happened. I started counting the hours. They kept flying. The governor went to Parliament to witness the swearing-in of the new Malindi MP. He earlier fielded a press conference.

“He’s cooperating, even as he chest-thumps for public consumption,” the Interior ministry assured. The same assurance was being given by police commanders in Mombasa. But where was the evidence? The police were hinting he had returned one gun. Mr Joho was making it very clear at his press conferences that he would not co-operate.

Which gun had he returned when he was already in Nairobi? The co-operation claim sounded like the weak excuse some effeminate guy gives when he is afraid to do something he has committed to. It’s called a coward’s defence.

Well after the 2 pm deadline passed, Mr Joho turned up in court to secure a restraining order against the police. It was granted in record speed by a sympathetic judge. If the government had wanted to arrest the governor before then, they had ample opportunity but did not dare. There was the nagging suspicion that the strangely scared police were deliberately allowing the governor time to get the court order. They have not shown any intention to appeal it before a different judge.


After puffing itself up, the State suddenly and inexplicably went quiet. General Nkaissery had told the world that Mr Joho was not more powerful than the government. Sorry General, the governor looks stronger now than the government.

On Tuesday, Jubilee-allied MPs from the Coast called a press conference at Parliament Buildings where they expressed bewilderment that the government was – note this word – “begging” the governor to return the firearms. I would advise the MPs and others of the same mind not to bother. It’s no use going out on a limb for people who are weak. Leave them to their ways.

On social media, people were having a field day making fun of the government and the edict which never was. I could not help but join the fray. Kalonzo Musyoka even threatened to storm a police station if Mr Joho was arrested. I would not have been surprised if “The Watermelon,” the same one we know, actually did something like that and got away with it.

While other Coast MPs whose bodyguards and firearms had been withdrawn chose not to make a fuss, not so Governor Joho. He is arrogant and egoistic. The way the authorities turned tail on him will only embolden him in his utter contempt for this government.

The Kibaki regime became a laughing stock because it could never effect any threat it issued. It always chickened out. When the former president faced a situation which demanded tough action, his way of avoiding it was to mumble “bure kabisa.”


While the government was demonstrating its helplessness regarding Mr Joho, 25 detectives – yes, 25 – were being rushed to arrest Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria. The arrest was effected very crudely and very roughly.

The EACC did not win any respect from the show. It came out looking cheap, vindictive, primitive. Arrests should be done respectfully, and only when a suspect has refused to answer summons. The trouble with this Commission is that the power it has been given has gone into its head.