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Citizen Weekly

Monday, 9 February 2015

Shifting alliances in Mombasa county politics

The recent defection of veteran Mombasa politician Ramadhan Kajembe from Orange Democratic Movement to Jubilee is likely to have far reaching political implications on Mombasa county politics.
Kajembe has for long been one of the dependable allies of Cord leader Raila Odinga in Coast politics. He began his political career in the 1970s as a youthwinger of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila’s late father and doyen of Kenya’s opposition politics.
However, after the last general elections in which he lost to Senator Hassan Omar, the former Changamwe MP cried foul, alleging that top party leadership and in particular Raila had betrayed him.
He was the acting Mombasa county ODM chairman before his defection a fortnight ago. Political observers say that the Orange party may not have felt the immediate impact of Kajembe’s departure from the party but his absence will be hugely felt in the next general elections.
The former assistant minister who was Changamwe MP for 15 years and a similar number of years as a councillor has a wealth of political experience and an elaborate grassroots support.
He intends to contest for Changamwe parliamentary seat for the fourth time in 2017 general elections in what his supporters claim is as a result of public demand. Changamwe MP is Omar Mwinyi whom Kajembe is said to have supported to clinch the seat as he eyed the Mombasa senatorial saddle. Sources say had Kajembe not stood with Mwinyi, Kibwana Abdalla would have sailed through.
“We strongly believe Kajembe never lost fairly but was rigged out because some people were uncomfortable with him. They didn’t want an experienced leader among themselves and had to get rid of him. The effects of the chicken scandal affected Mombasa county results as there was  stuffing of boxes with ballot papers smuggled from the chicken gate firm in the United Kingdom,” claimed Eric Wambua, a supporter of Kajembe.
Now with Kajembe in TNA, observers say, the ruling party will have some inroads in Mombasa county politics. Efforts are already underway to make him the county party chairman. It is expected that with Kajembe at the helm, the party will be organised and rejuvenated.
The former MP will reportedly team up with the Coast Jubilee coalition coordinator Farid Swaleh and others to give the Cord side led by Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, a run for their money. Sources say Farid is preparing to contest for Mombasa senatorial seat against Hassan Omar.
Omar is considered a political weakling at the grassroots. Even though he went in courtesy of overwhelming support from the youth in Mombasa, he is accused of having forgotten them immediately he won the seat.
Farid was instrumental in giving Jubilee a foothold in the port city in the last elections. However, his supporters are bitter that the party coordinator was not rewarded and that instead Najib Balala, the Mining cabinet secretary whose party was Republican Congress, became the ultimate beneficiary.
It is not clear if Kajembe and Farid will team up with Nyali MP Hezron Awiti who is being pushed to challenge Joho for the governor’s seat. Last week, it emerged that the Nyali MP is holding high level consultations before he decides the way forward.
Sources said delegations from different communities living in the port city were paying homage to Awiti with the agenda being to assure him of support if he decides to run for governor. The idea is also being backed by a number of influential business people. Investigations are still on to establish which political party Awiti will contest on if the strategy succeeds.
But sources within Joho camp say Awiti is wasting his time as he cannot measure up to the Mombasa governor’s campaign prowess. The sources added that Awiti will end up the same way as Suleiman Shahbal who barked loud but failed to bite.