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ODM brigade starts six-day Coast tour in hunt for votes

ODM leaders Thursday start a series of rallies in the six Coast counties to vouch for the party and the National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Led by ODM deputy party leader and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, they flew into Voi, Taita Taveta County on Wednesday evening ready to start the rallies.

Mr Joho met aspirants at Voi Lodge.

The tour is meant to water down gains made by the Jubilee Party following President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto’s tour of the Coast counties that ended on Monday.

During the visits to Lamu, Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties, the Jubilee leaders dished out goodies to locals and enticed them to join the party and vote for its candidates in the August elections.

The asked locals to vote out governors allied to Nasa including Mr Joho, Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and John Mruttu (Taita Taveta).

DEFECTORS TO JUBILEE

They also fished into the opposition waters with a number of leaders, including Tana River Governor Hussein Dado, defecting from Wiper Party to Jubilee.

Jubilee’s frequent forays into the coast has opened a vicious fight with Nasa over the control of the more than 1.5 million votes in the region ahead of the August elections.

The Coast counties which had suffered years of marginalisation by previous governments prior to devolution have a high poverty index, high number of squatters and landless people and have been struggling to achieve growth.

The region is also home to many projects like the port of Mombasa, the Lamu Port-South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor, the Sh200 billion coal plant in Lamu, the standard gauge railway (SGR), vast land and tourism due to beaches and safari.

The projects are key to the growth of Kenya’s economy.

NO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The lack of a “serious” presidential candidate at the Coast and the huge resources have made the area a battle ground for the top coalitions.

There is also a fight between the Nasa affiliate parties including ODM, Wiper, Amani National Congress and Ford Kenya for support from locals.

Wiper party and ANC have already shown the resolve to field candidates to compete with the ODM ones in the August polls, a thing that analysts say could weaken the opposition and pave way for Jubilee to penetrate the region.

Wiper Secretary-General Hassan Omar has, however, defended the move, saying the area is in opposition and that the seats will still be won by Nasa candidates despite competing against each other.

“The competition is just friendly fire,” he said.

ODM TURF

Mr Joho says during the current rallies, ODM will be seeking to protect its turf.

The combative governor who is a major critic of the Jubilee administration together with Mr Kingi has declared Coast an ODM zone.

From Taita Taveta where Mr Mruttu and ODM chief whip Thomas Mwadeghu are squaring it out for the party’s ticket in the gubernatorial race, the ODM brigade are to head to Lamu on Saturday.

On Monday the team, which includes a host of MPs including ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed, will later pitch camp in Tana River before heading to Kilifi and Kwale.

The tour will culminate in a major rally at Mombasa’s Tononoka ground on March 26, where Mr Joho says the region’s residents will declare their political stand.

TAITA TAVETA

In Taita Taveta the ODM vehicle was punctured following the defection of Senator Dan Mwazo and Woman Rep Joyce Lay to Jubilee.

Mr Mwazo wants to be governor while Ms Lay is eyeing the senatorial seat.

In Kwale, ODM is still reeling from the defection of Governor Salim Mvurya and Woman Rep Chidzuga to Jubilee.

In Kilifi, MPs Gideon Mung’aro and Mustafa Iddi are singing the Jubilee tune while in Mombasa Deputy Governor Hazel Katana also left ODM.

In Lamu, Governor Issa Timamy who romped into office on a UDF ticket is backing President Kenyatta for a second term but has refused joining Jubilee.

It is unclear whether ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is currently on a US visit, will later join the campaigns.

Mr Odinga is battling it out with Nasa co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula to be its presidential flag bearer.

ODM Coast Tour Schedule

Thursday March 16 -Taveta

Saturday March 18 – Lamu

Sunday March 19 – Tana River

Tuesday March 21 – Kilifi

Thursday March 23 – Kwale

Sunday March 26 – Tononoka rally

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