Scramble for the Mijikenda vote as race for Mombasa gubernatorial race hot up


Mombasa governor Hassan Ali Joho chats with Nyali Member of Parliament Mr Hezron Awiti Bollo at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport while waiting for the arrival of  CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka. Jomvu MP Badi Twalib and WIPER activist Simon Adalla look on. ~ Picture by Abdilhakim Sherman



  • Hassan Ali Joho ODM 132,583
  • Suleiman Said Saleh Shahbal WDM_K 94,905
  • Registered voters 268,682
  • Total votes cast 270,763

Key Highlights

  • Four aspirants including the incumbent, Mr Hassan Joho, have declared interest for the governor’s seat in 2017. Others are Nyali MP Hezron Awiti, Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Jubilee pointman at the Coast Suleiman Shahbal
  • The four are eyeing the Mijikenda sub-tribes expected to provide the swing vote
  • Mr Joho, Mr Omar and Mr Awiti are all in Cord while Mr Shahbal is in Jubilee and analysts have warned that Jubilee could win if Cord does not agree on a single candidate
  • However, fearing frustrations, Mr Awiti is said to be considering securing another party ticket within Cord and has been campaigning actively. In the end the fight may be reduced to a two-horse race between Joho and Awiti

 Scramble for the Mijikenda vote as Mombasa gubernatorial campaigns hot up


Although the General Election is slated for August next year, campaigns for the Mombasa governor’s seat have intensified in the recent past with aspirants focusing on the expansive Mijikenda vote.

The political titans angling for the seat are the incumbent, Mr Hassan Joho, Nyali MP Hezron Awiti, Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Jubilee pointman at the Coast and 2013 runners-up Suleiman Shahbal.

The four have stepped up their efforts to win the Mijikenda support expected to provide the swing vote by nominating running mates from one of the nine sub-tribes.

However, the entry of Mr Awiti and Mr Omar both in the Cord coalition has complicated things for the incumbent, Mr Joho, who is also in Cord.

Cord supporters fear that if the three aspirants in the opposition contest on different parties they are likely to give an advantage to Mr Shahbal, who is the front-runner from the Jubilee side.

Although Mr Joho is tipped to win the ODM ticket given his closeness to Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Awiti and Mr Omar who both won their seats on a Wiper Democratic Party ticket are likely to go through the nomination process to decide who gets the Mr Kalonzo Musyoka-led party ticket.

However, word on the streets of Mombasa is that Mr Awiti, fearing to be frustrated by powerful interests in Cord, has already secured a ticket from another party and he has embarked on intense campaigns against Mr Joho.

According to political analyst, Ms Maimuna Mwidau, differences within the Cord affiliate parties can easily give an advantage to a Jubilee candidate in the next General Election.

“There is threat of Cord giving room to a second option as Wiper and ODM engage in a struggle for the gubernatorial seat. This is a serious threat,” Ms Mwidau cautioned.

Mr Awiti is said to enjoy a solid support among both ODM and Wiper party supporters and he has been reaching out to Jubilee supporters as well as the Mijikendas to solidify his political base in readiness for 2017.

Both Mr Awiti, Mr Joho and Mr Omar are close to Cord leaders Mr Odinga, Mr Kalonzo and Mr Moses Wetangula and each one of them may be hoping that the co-principles will rally their support behind them.

It is not clear if Governor Joho will retain his deputy Ms Hazel Katana, as of late the two are said to have a strained relationship. But should he drop Ms Katana, then most likely he will pick another person from the Mijikenda group as his running mate.

Pwani University lecturer, Dr Hassan Mwachimako, says the Mijikenda will be a crucial vote in determining who the next Mombasa governor becomes.

In a recent interview Dr Mwachimako, however, noted that the Mijikenda, who forms the biggest voting block in Mombasa County, would only play a major role in determining who becomes the governor if they come out in large numbers to register as voters and also turn out to vote.


Nyali MP Hezron Awiti Bollo chats with Mombasa businessman cum Wiper activist Simon Adalla during his fac- finding tour of his Constituency Development Fund [CDF] projects at Ziwa La Ng’ombe in Mombasa county ~ Picture by Abdilhakim Sherman

“It is in recognition of this fact that all the gubernatorial aspirants are looking for a Mijikenda running mate who will marshal the votes from the communities,” Dr Mwachimako said.

Although Mr Shahbal remains the front-runner for the Jubilee ticket in the Mombasa governor’s race, inflammatory remarks attributed to him that Jubilee Party would win the 2017 General Election by force or “by buying or stealing votes” has made him unpopular even among his supporters.

And although the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko, instructed the police to investigate the businessman-cum politician over the alleged inflammatory statements he made in Kilifi County on January 2 in the presence of Deputy President William Ruto, there is no update on the issue.

According to Mr Tobiko, the words uttered amounted to a criminal offence under the elections and criminal laws.

“My attention has been drawn to a video clip posted on the website of the Star, Kenya, in which the above mentioned person is captured uttering words that may amount to criminal offences under our elections and criminal laws,” Mr Tobiko was quoted saying.

Even IEBC Chairperson Isaack Hassan condemned the utterances, saying such remarks stoked political strife, polarised the country and undermined national values as espoused in the Constitution.

Mr Shahbal who lost the Mombasa gubernatorial seat in 2013 to Mr Joho, has joined the Jubilee Party after defecting from Wiper.

Just like in 2013 when the fight was reduced to a two-horse race pitting Mr Joho of ODM and Mr Shahbal of Wiper, 2017 is likely to be a replay of the last General Election.

The difference, however, might be the players in the race. Although analysts say Senator Omar cannot be wished away in the epic contest, currently, the battle seems to be gravitating towards a Joho-Awiti affair.

While Mr Omar has made his interests known, he has not been visibly campaigning like Mr Awiti who has been making forays into communities and constituencies to sell his agenda for Mombasa.

Mr Awiti’s campaign has centred on uniting all the communities living in Mombasa, creating wealth, fighting drug abuse, insecurity and a revamped social fabric that will use religious bodies and elders to address social ills.

But most importantly, his bid is premised on the understanding that Mombasa being a business hub is cosmopolitan and anybody is free to seek a political office.

Mr Joho, on the other hand, seems relaxed, basking in the advantage of incumbency, a big grassroots-base and a campaign machinery like the one he unleashed in 2013 and the support from ODM leader Raila Odinga.

However, Mr Omar’s recent remarks during the visit by Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, that he cannot betray Mr Joho has left many people wondering whether he was serious about running for governor.

“People have been trying to create a wedge between me and Joho, but I would like to state here that Joho is my brother and I cannot betray him.

“If I die today, Joho will bury me and also take care of my children,” said the fiery and stinging critic of the governor at the Aga Khan Hall in Mombasa.

The question many people are asking is whether Mr Omar is having second thoughts about his bid and considering backing Mr Joho and take another stab at the senatorial seat.

But there is every possibility that Mr Omar was playing smart to confuse everyone especially his competitors about his political stand.

There is no denying the fact that Mombasa is a Mijikenda/Swahili stronghold because they command about 40 per cent of the voting population. But it is also true that Mombasa is a trading/business hub for all Kenyan communities.

The upcountry communities that include Luo, Kamba, Kikuyu and Luhya also form a major voting block and whoever wins their support will have a head-start.

However, the political matrix in Mombasa will be determined by a combination of factors but most importantly the one who will be able to juggle the tribal card and also win the support of the business community will be the next governor.


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