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President Uhuru receives Coast NASA defectors

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto receive defectors to Jubilee Party at Tononoka grounds in Mombasa. [PHOTO:GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD]

The scramble for the Coast 1.7 million voters heightened over the weekend with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto camping in the region.

Coast residents voted overwhelmingly for the Opposition in the last elections.

Uhuru’s tour of the region began on Thursday and climaxed yesterday, with a number of leaders defecting from the Opposition to Jubilee Party.

Before arriving at a political rally at Tononoka grounds, the President received governors Hussein Dado of Tana River and Salim Mvurya of Kwale, deputy governors Hazel Katana (Mombasa), Kenneth Kamto (Kilifi) and Fatuma Achani (Kwale), and women representatives Zainab Chidzuga (Kwale), Joyce Lay (Taita Taveta) and Halima Ware (Tana River).

The region’s Members of Parliament who have ditched the Opposition include Dan Mwazo (Taita Taveta senator), Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi North), Mustafa Idd (Kilifi South), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Peter Shehe (Ganze) and Masood Mwahima (Likoni).

A host of Members of the County Assembly from the region’s six counties also defected.

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Uhuru was visiting the region for the third time this year. His deputy has visited more frequently to launch projects, receive defectors and campaign for Jubilee.

The visits were concentrated in Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Kwale counties, where the two have also distributed title deeds.

The region is important to Jubilee because some key allies of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga – governors Hassan Joho and Amason Kingi, and Senator Hassan Omar – come from there.

The Opposition has been trying to safeguard its dominance in the region by matching every presidential visit with political rallies.

Yesterday, Governor Joho, who is the ODM deputy party leader, had planned a parallel rally in Mvita. But the rally was disallowed by security officers.

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka held two rallies in Malindi.

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi was in the region a week ago and held a series of meetings in Mombasa. Raila too, has been in the region in the last one week while Joho held a rally in Frere Town within the same period to mark his return from a two-week trip to the US.

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During yesterday’s rally, Uhuru and his deputy also paraded businessman Suleiman Shahbal and his running mate, Ananiah Mwaboza, as the Jubilee candidate for the governorship and asked residents to back them.

Governor Dado said Uhuru had courted him into Jubilee for the last three years and he had finally accepted the offer for the sake of development in Tana River County.

Uhuru sustained his attacks on Joho for allegedly taking credit for projects funded by the national government.

The Tononoka rally was attended by thousands of Jubilee supporters including leaders from ODM who have recently defected to the ruling coalition. Key speeches were dedicated to attacking Joho, who was described as divisive and a “sultan”.

Joho has been a vocal critic of the Jubilee administration and has launched direct attacks at Uhuru and Ruto, sparking fury from Jubilee and earning him repeated threats of arrest, prosecution and withdrawal of his security.

Uhuru accused the Opposition of associating defections to Jubilee with bribery while claiming those moving to the National Super Alliance were bold.

“The Opposition has also claimed those joining Jubilee have been bribed while those embracing them (NASA) are bold. This is not true,” he said.

The head of state challenged Joho to tell residents how he had utilised Sh40 billion allocated to the county instead of laying claim to projects funded by the Jubilee government.

Uhuru said the national government had so far spent Sh33 billion to fund road projects in the region.

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