Harrison Kivisu and Reuben Mwambingu
A private meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho caught many—across the political divide—offguard and left political pundits and the two leaders’ close allies speculating the possible political outcome of the meet.
The meeting said to have been held at a posh bungalow in the balmy Vipingo ridge was top secret, a source close to the governor told People Daily: “Only a few within the inner circles of the two were privy to it but were locked out of it and thus they know little about the details of the meeting.”
The President’s visit to the Coast attracted little media publicity, but the series of high-profile activities—including a tour of the National Assembly committee on Environment to Kibarani area that almost coincided with CSs Najib Balala (Tourism) and Keriako Tobiko (Environment) courtesy call on Joho—provided clues to a real government mission at the Coast.
Then came the directive from State House on immediate revocation of title deeds around Kibarani dumpsite, which came shortly after Joho dropped a hint the land will be repossessed from private owners.
According to State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena, who made public the meeting between Uhuru and Joho, the above were some of the issues that emerged at the meeting.
However, sources hinted to People Daily that the Standard Gauge Railway utilisation as the main cargo mover from Mombasa to the proposed Naivasha dry port and its effect to local CFSs, also featured prominently in the meeting.
Jubilee administration’s SGR project and promises to create inland ports at various parts of the country have been a major cause of friction between Jubilee leaders and the Mombasa governor, sparking bitter rivalry between Joho and Uhuru last year.
Even as the two finally appeared to have closed ranks during the commissioning of the first phase of the historic Mombasa Port Area Development Project at Miritini—where they shared a podium for the first time since the General Election last August—Joho said he will use the opportunity to talk with the government on regional development.
Joho’s rivalry with the government is believed to have escalated into damaging consequences of Joho family business especially after President issued a directive to ensure no private container terminal is allowed to operate at the port. A year after the directive, Portside Freight Terminals, owned by the Mombasa governor’s family and Makupa Transit Shed were still located at the port.
Uhuru also ordered investigations into operations of all CFSs, a probe that led to the suspension of licence for Autoport and Portside sparking protests from Joho.
But that Joho’s meeting with the President is said to have been held just hours after Uhuru met Opposition leader Raila Odinga, igniting speculations of a possible political deal-cutting.
Uhuru and Raila were at the Coast over the weekend with official reports indicating they met to discuss “matters of national importance’’ in a secret meeting. The duo is yet to reveal the details of their discussion.
Raila arrived in Mombasa last Thursday where he joined Uhuru, who was already in the Coast for a five-day stay.
Photos circulating on social media show the President dressed in casual strolling at the public beach accompanied by Tourism CS. The President is said to have met Joho, Balala and Tobiko a meeting believed to have engineered the mending of Balala-Joho frosty working relations.
Though no official communication has come out of Uhuru and Raila Coast visit, speculations are rife that it has a bearing on 2022 politics and Joho’s role in the matrix. “It’s true there was a meeting but we don’t know where it was held. It was not in State House because it would have been official,”said a close ally of Joho.
Balala gave a thumps up to Joho’s beautification project of Mombasa, saying he will support all initiatives aimed at restoring the glory of the tourist city. The two had not come together since Joho became governor in 2013. “We have come here first to congratulate you for the beautification project. We have seen infrastructural improvement and that means good for the county,” Balala told Joho.
The two also agreed to work together to promote the county as a tourist destination. Uhuru also accepted to a request by Joho to work together on the coastal city’s regeneration programme to enhance infrastructure and service delivery.
“There is a wind blowing on the Coast politics. But the big question is who benefits from building the bridges we are witnessing across political divide. Balala and Joho should make use of their pact to change Mombasa,” said Stambuli Nassir, a Coast political analyst.
Political pundits term the President’s meeting with Joho and pronouncements at the coastal city endorsement of Joho administration towards developing the county and protecting public resources.