12 July 2018

Kenya: We're Open to More Suitors, Say Coast MPs

Members of Parliament allied to Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi have become hesitant about whether or not their political future lies with Deputy President William Ruto, opting instead to listen to the overtures of other suitors before they fully commit to one.

While it appeared that they had fallen for the charm of the Deputy President, several of them yesterday told the Nation they were willing to give a chance to other political players, and that this Saturday they will be meeting with Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi in Kwale.

Their indecisiveness could complicate the arithmetic at the coast for Mr Ruto, whose regular forays into the region in recent weeks have caused huge political ripples.

On Wednesday, Matuga MP Kassim Tandaza said all coast MPs, through their group chairman Suleiman Dori (Msambweni), had confirmed attendance of the Saturday meeting with Mr Mudavadi. Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya is also expected to attend.

BUILD ALLIANCE

Mr Mudavadi is seeking to build an alliance with the region's leadership after his ANC party bagged a number of seats in the region during the last General Election.

His fortunes there, however, face threats from various politicians, among them Mr Ruto and Kanu's Gideon Moi. Mr Moi has announced a possible alliance with Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho ahead of the 2022 elections.

Meanwhile, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, regarded as the political kingpin of the region, is not loosening his grip on the political discourse and direction here.

His key lieutenants here are Mr Joho and Mr Kingi, both of whom are serving their last terms as governors, and both of whom have presidential ambitions.

Of late, however, the two, who have been close allies, have been reading from different scripts, with Mr Kingi indicating that, other than the possibility of joining hands with Mr Ruto in the 2022 race, he could also form his own party and test the national waters. Mr Joho, meanwhile, plans to vie on an ODM ticket.

AMBIGOUS POSITION

On Wednesday, the MPs allied to Mr Kingi repeated his rather ambiguous position that they are only angling for a political partnership with the DP, and that the Kilifi Governor has not endorsed Mr Ruto at all.The legislators -- Ken Chonga (Kilifi South), Michael Kingi (Magarini) and Teddy Mwambire (Ganze) -- said the era of elected leaders deciding who to support for the top seat is over, and that the coastals "must consult widely on the 2022 General Election". The Magarini MP is Governor Kingi's brother.

But Kilifi North MP Owen Baya and Gertrude Mbeyu (Kilifi Woman Representative) defended their decision to tour with Mr Ruto during his visits to the coast, saying they do so in the interest of local development.

Mr Chonga defended the Governor against allegations that he had endorsed the DP for the presidency, saying his warming up to Mr Ruto was only in the spirit of the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

RETREAT

"I personally told the ODM National Executive Committee during our recent retreat in Mombasa that the Governor had not told us of anything about backing Mr Ruto or supporting his bid," said Mr Chonga. "To the best of my knowledge, he has not endorsed Ruto, and neither has he asked us to support him."

Mr Chonga said coast MPs supporting Ruto have gone against some of the political strategies, including controversial calls for secession.

"Instead of sitting down and pursuing the secession agenda, some have already jumped ship, and this is disappointing," he said.

Mr Mwambire said more consultations were needed in the quest for coastal unity "and not mere endorsement that adds no value to the challenges facing the region".

POLITICAL HISTORY

"Immediately after the August 2017 General Election, our idea as coast leaders was to rewrite our political history by joining forces, but now some of us are killing the idea," he lamented.

Mr Baya said that, despite joining Mr Ruto in all his coast visits, he is still loyal to ODM and Mr Odinga.

"People appear to read too much in my association with the DP but I want to state categorically that I am loyal to my party and my party leader. I have accompanied the DP on his visits to the coast and I will continue to do so because I have a specific message to the people of the coast that the coast needs to reshape its politics and move forward instead of being stuck in the past," he said.

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