The undercurrents of a silent battle for Coast regional kingship between Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kwale counterpart Salim Mvurya have finally boiled to the surface after local MPs drew battle lines in support of the latter.
While the contest still appears to favour Mr Joho, Mr Mvurya's recent win in the Msambweni by-election has made the fight for Coast region one to watch ahead of the 2022 General Election.
Mr Mvurya has thrown his weight behind Deputy President William Ruto while Mr Joho is an ardent defender of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga, whom he deputises together with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
Those backing Mr Mvurya, and by extension Dr Ruto, have revealed plans to form their own party, further escalating the onslaught to dethrone Mr Joho and depose ODM from the helm of Coast politics. The Coast was firmly behind Mr Odinga in the 2007 and 2013 elections, but raised its vote contribution for the UhuRuto camp in 2017 to 258,000, up from 158,000 five years earlier.
Coast supremo role
The UhuRuto team also got two governors, snatching Kwale from ODM and using Lamu's Fahim Twaha to beat Issa Timamy of the Amani National Congress (ANC). Mr Joho has the support of Senators Mohammed Faki (Mombasa), his Kilifi counterpart Stewart Madzayo and MPs Ali Wario (Garsen) Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita) Mishi Mboko (Likoni), William Kamoti (Rabai), Said Hiribae (Galole), Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate), Omar Mwinyi (Changamwe), Jones Mlowa (Voi), Badi Twalib (Jomvu), Ken Chonga (Kilifi South) Teddy Mwambire (Ganze). Also in his team are woman reps Gertrude Mbeyu (Kilifi), Aisha Mohammed (Mombasa) and Ruweida Obbo (Lamu).
Mr Mvurya, on the other hand, has been endorsed to take over Coast supremo role by 11 MPs, including Mohamed Ali (Nyali), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Benjamin Tayari (Kinango) and Owen Baya (Kilifi North).
Others are Paul Katana (Kaloleni), Ali Wario (Bura), Shariff Athman (Lamu East), Feisal Bader(Msambweni), and Women Reps Lydia Haika (Taita Taveta) and Rehema Hassan (Tana River). He is also backed by former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar.
Keen to eclipse the emerging formations, Mr Joho has launched a campaign to discredit his rivals as selfish leaders and agents of 'outsiders'.
Last week, Mr Joho toured Garsen in Tana River County to drum up support for Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and declared his intention to contest for the presidency.
Mr Joho, Mr Mvurya and their Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, who has also declared interest in running for a national seat, are completing their second and last gubernatorial terms.
"It is time for Coast people to chart their own political destiny. We shall no longer be slaves of those that have been using us for their own political gain," Mr Joho said in Garsen.
Mr Mvurya has accused Mr Joho of making Kwale a sub-county of Mombasa: "I've heard a lot of politics from ODM politicians. Some of the remarks are from my brother governors (Joho and Kilifi governor Amason Mingi). I wish to tell them that Kwale is home of civilised politics, not war."
Mr Mvurya said Kwale was an independent entity with a functioning administration.
"Those wishing to come and camp here for any political gain are welcome as tourists, but we are calling on all politicians to conduct themselves peacefully and not use political parties or other considerations to divide the peaceful people of Kwale," Mr Mvurya said