Joho, Omar contest turns ugly as elections draw near

Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Governor Hassan Joho. (Photo: Courtesy)

The Mombasa governor race is turning ugly, with war of words and hooliganism taking centre stage.

A day after Governor Hassan Joho claimed some candidates affiliated to NASA were Jubilee moles, an armed gang on Friday attacked his rival Hassan Omar’s campaign secretariat.

Although no evidence has been provided to link the two events, Omar has blamed Joho’s relatives for the morning raid.

Police also said that prior to the attack, a driver on the governor’s entourage had reported being assaulted by people believed to be supporters of the Senator’s Wiper Democratic Movement in Mombasa.

Attackers damaged the windshield of a 24-wheeler truck used by Omar for his campaign roadshows and hurled weapons into the Renaissance Centre, which serves as his operation centre.

The truck had its front screen smashed and two headlights damaged. An agitated Omar told the press that early Saturday, attackers stormed the premises and chased away a volunteer worker before smashing the truck’s front screen and throwing in petrol bombs that never went off.

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Omar said he suspected that a relative of Joho’s could be behind the act.

Extreme hooliganism

“This is extreme hooliganism and attempts to intimidate opponents. I already have one suspicion. These fellows are out to intimidate anyone who stands in their way. They are alpha hooligans and know no borders and no law,” said the Senator.

But Joho’s spokesman Richard Chacha dismissed Omar’s claims and asked him to allow police to investigate before apportioning blame.

“Our driver was attacked in broad daylight. Although we suspect he was attacked by Wiper supporters we were not quick to drag the Senator’s name into the attack,” Chacha said and accused Omar of using the governor’s name to promote himself.

“He knows the only way to attract media attention is to invoke the governor’s name into his troubles. The governor’s relatives have better things to do than engage with a novice calling himself a competitor. He has never been our competitor,” said Chacha.

Chacha claimed the Senator was fomenting propaganda as a tactic to divert attention from his “new found wealth… and those he is now working with to split the (Opposition) vote in Mombasa.”

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But Omar stuck to his guns, insisting that on Thursday there was an altercation involving the son of one of Joho’s brother’s and his campaign entourage when the man allegedly attempted to block his convoy.

“We are telling him and his ilk that there exists a new generation in Mombasa which is fully committed to change the Port City,” Omar said and asked police to protect all candidates during the campaign period.

Omar said his team is out to bring discipline “back to Mombasa”.

Mombasa County Police Commander Lucas Oigara said they have launched investigations into the attempted petrol bombing of the truck and Omar’s offices.

The bitter rivalry between Joho and Omar hit a new high early this week, when the governor claimed that some NASA candidates were campaigning for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party.

The governor returned with a bang from Haj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and reignited the campaigns that had taken a lull during the month-long Ramadhan.

Omar accused Joho of creating the Jubilee mole claims to cover up his shortfalls. He also accused him of using NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s name for personal gains.

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Fighting for democracy

“Let him know that when he was clearing cars from the port some of us were fighting for democracy,” said Omar, referring to the governor’s past role as a clearing agent at the Mombasa Port.

The senator and Vibrant Democratic Party candidate Hezron Awiti have accused Joho of denying them advertising space so they don’t erect their billboards.

But Joho has denied, saying he has no control over advertising space. On Friday, he said he was willing to cede all the space with his 21 billboards to his rivals.

On Thursday, Omar launched a caravan of vehicles to spearhead his campaign, as Awiti intensified vote hunt in Likoni.

There has been a lull in the campaigns in the Coast’s main city for the last month as candidates concentrated mainly on door-to-door visits and preparations for the ultimate political contest. Some of the candidates are busy putting final touches to their manifestos and mobilising funds.

Ananiah Mwaboza, Jubilee Party candidate Suleiman Shahbal’s running mate, said apart from residents observing the holy month of Ramadhan, several other factors have held back aggressive campaigns.

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