Out of Kenya’s 47 governors, two have been the biggest headache for President Uhuru Kenyatta as he campaigns for his election on August 8.
This week, governors Amason Kingi of Kilifi and Hassan Ali Joho of Mombasa were at it again, crossing swords with the President. And sometimes it is difficult to draw a line between the spats featuring the governors and the President as they feature genuine political concerns by both sides, only that they are couched in caustic language.
The bad blood between Uhuru and the two governors revolves around non-implementation of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (according to Kingi), the future of the Port of Mombasa (according to Joho), land reforms and the President’s support of their opponents.
These differences peaked in March last year when the two governors spearheaded Jubilee’s defeat in the Malindi by-election in which OMD’s Willy Mtengo won by garnering 15,582 votes against Jubilee candidate Philip Charo’s 9,243.
After the by-election, the Government withdrew the governors’ licensed guns and security. Prior to this, Joho had had his battles with Coast Regional Commissioner Nelson Marwa, who had not hidden on which side he stood.
Later, two container freight stations associated with the Joho family could not get cargo assigned to them the Port of Mombasa, compelling the family to sue the port for discrimination.
In May, the Mombasa High Court ruled the series of investigations against Joho were politically motivated and suspended any prosecution from findings of the probe pending determination of a constitutional application he filed against the State in April.
Joho is also facing prosecution after being accused of forging his O’level certificate and has had his bank accounts scrutinised by the State.
He has also been barred from two presidential functions in Mombasa after repeatedly claiming the President was in the habit of launching projects that had been started by the Kibaki government.
Joho has also been claiming that the State wanted to transfer key functions of Mombasa port to the proposed free port or special economic zone in Naivasha, but the President countered that the Naivasha project would not harm the Mombasa port in any way.
In the latest clash, on Sunday Joho assembled ODM leaders in Mvita where he described the President as “a tourist visiting Mombasa”. That happened as Uhuru addressed a rally at Jomvu, Mombasa.
Since his arrival in Coast on Sunday, the President has accused the two governors of insulting and sabotaging his efforts and praised Kwale’s Salim Mvurya who defected from the Orange Democratic Movement ODM to Jubilee last year.
But the two governors have also been unrelenting in their reactions.
The war of words has escalated with the President at one time threatening to order Kingi’s arrest over graft in Kilifi County. Kingi has held a series of meetings in Kilifi to counter the President’s onslaught.
On Sunday Kingi told a teachers’ forum in Malindi that the President harboured vendetta against him and Joho.
“I know the President will be here today together with his team and as usual the topic will be me, me, me and Governor Joho. Nothing else,” he told the teachers at Pine Court Hotel in Malindi.
Later, while addressing a rally at Cleopatra grounds, the President accused Kingi of linking him to land grabbing at the Malindi Airport.
“He (Kingi) is now claiming that I want to grab the Malindi airport land, which is only 20 acres, yet you all know I built the SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi, a distance of 540 kilometres yet nobody accused me of stealing any land,” Uhuru fired back, accusing Kingi of refusing to accept that the national government had equipped local hospitals in Malindi besides several roads built in Kilifi County.
But it is the President’s threat on Monday at Rabai to have Kingi arrested that escalated the exchange of words. Uhuru said Kingi had “refused to see” the development the Jubilee regime had brought to Kilifi and had instead teamed with Joho to insult and sabotage his efforts.
“The same governor, who all the time insults me accompanied me to Malindi Hospital last year to receive medical equipment that my government brought and yet he stills peddles lies that my government has neglected you,” Uhuru said referring to Kingi.
Kingi fired back instantly, dismissing the President’s claims and accusing him of misleading the residents of Kilifi.
According to Kingi, the supply of the equipment was not a favour. He said his administration paid Sh90 million for the equipment annually and would do so for the next seven years.