20 March 2018

Kenyatta-Odinga Deal Shakes Up Coast Politics Ahead of 2022 Polls

President Uhuru Kenyatta's unity deal with Nasa leader Raila Odinga has shaken up Coast politics, throwing the battle for the region's votes ahead of the 2022 elections wide open.

Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Suleiman Dori said Monday that the National Super Alliance leader had asked MPs in the region to shelve the campaign for secession and peoples' assemblies long before he met President Kenyatta at Harambee House on March 9.

"He had told us that we should support the agenda of the government and that is what we are doing. As a party we have to follow whatever our leader tell us to do," Mr Dori said at the Nation's Mombasa office.

SUPPORT RUTO

The region that has traditionally voted for the opposition is now slowly embracing the Jubilee administration with some former Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) diehards, throwing their weight behind Deputy President William Ruto's presidential bid.

More than 15 Coast MPs and senators -- mainly from ODM -- turned up to give Mr Ruto a rousing welcome during his three-day visit covering Mombasa, Kwale and Taita Taveta at the weekend, raising questions over Nasa's future in the region.

On Sunday, Nasa leaders led by Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa endorsed Mr Ruto, saying he was the most qualified to take over from Mr Kenyatta.

Ms Jumwa (ODM, Malindi) Danson Mwashako (ODM, Wundanyi) Ali Mbogo (Wiper, Kisauni) Jones Mlolwa (ODM, Voi) and Governor Granton Samboja (Wiper, Taita Taveta) categorically said they will support Mr Ruto and Jubilee's development agenda.

BOOST

The leaders' remarks came as a big boost to Mr Ruto's efforts to penetrate the region that overwhelmingly voted for Mr Odinga in 2013 and during last August's polls.

The residents also heeded Mr Odinga's call to boycott last October's repeat presidential poll.

The shifting political ground also throws into disarray Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart's plans to vie for the presidency since most of their foot soldiers attended Mr Ruto's weekend meetings and pledged to work with the government.

Although Mr Joho has since welcomed the Uhuru-Raila unity deal reached on March 9, Mr Kingi is yet to make his stand known.

Mr Joho is ODM's deputy party leader and together with Mr Kingi have been Jubilee's harshest critics at the coast. Both are serving their second and final terms as governors.

While Mr Joho has been keen on protecting ODM's influence at the Coast, Mr Kingi and his allies have been pushing for the formation of a new party to champion locals' interests.

The six coast counties have 1.7 million registered voters.

CHANGE OF TUNE

The change of tune by most of the Coast opposition leaders leaves Mr Joho and Mr Kingi scrambling to find a new political footing as their allies abandon them for Ruto's camp.

Only Mombasa woman Representative Asha Hussein seemed to actively support Joho's candidature, saying on Friday during a rally attended by Mr Ruto that the Coast was still an ODM zone with Mr Joho as its presidential candidate in 2022 regardless of the Uhuru-Raila union.

But she said in Kwale a day later that Coast leaders will work with Mr Ruto on development issues.

Mr Joho, who has been actively campaigning to succeed his party leader and eventually try to clinch the presidency in 2022 has seen his popularity soar mainly because of being a staunch Odinga supporter and for attending his 'swearing-in' ceremony that was skipped by other Nasa principals.

The changing politics at the coast comes at a time when politicians in the region who lost in last year's General Election are trying to reinvent themselves, fearing that the new found Jubilee-ODM union will influence the distribution of positions in government, throwing then into political oblivion.

Yesterday, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala extended the olive branch to opposition politicians.

Speaking on the side-lines of the Tourism Research Institute's Board retreat at Pride Inn Paradise Beach Resort in Mombasa, Mr Balala said the political temperatures have cooled down due to the handshake between the President and the opposition leader.

Additional Reporting by Winnie Atieno

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