Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar

Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar

After skipping the Jumuia ya Kanti za Pwani meetings, Omar did not accompany Joho when he was grilled by EACC sleuths over new graft allegations. Meanwhile, the social media has been abuzz with claims that the senator is plotting to break away from Joho?s shadow and possibly wrest the governor?s seat.

While Joho appears to have consolidated the support of MPs like Abdulswamad Nassir of Mvita and Rashid Bedzimba of Kisauni, the senator?s ally is Nyali MP Hezron Awiti with whom they were elected on the Wiper Democratic Movement ticket.

As Joho?s legal troubles decreased from mid last year, he tended to strike a conciliatory tone, trying to appease several groups, including fostering religious harmony after the April 2 terrorist attack in Garissa.

He also toned down on his scathing verbal attacks on national government officials and recently appointed Tawfiq Balala, a relative of arch-rival Najib Balala, to his cabinet in an apparent effort to shore up his support among the Arab elite. By courting Christian leaders and eschewing religious rhetoric, Joho?s eyes appear fixed on maintaining a firm grip on the ?upcountry? block of votes, which comprises mainly of ethnic Luo, Luyia, Kamba and Gusii. These groups have often accused the Joho government of not being inclusive enough.

In his last meeting with Christian evangelicals on April 15, Joho countered allegations of skewed appointments and informed the gathering that five of 10 County Executive Committee (CEC) are Christians and six of the 10 chief officers are Christians.

?But I have given you a go-ahead to appoint any firm to audit the ethnic and religious composition of my administration and I ask you to do it in 10 days,? said Joho.

Yet there are reports that Wiper ? a member of the CORD coalition with the Orange Democratic Movement ? wants to scuttle ODM?s dominance in the Coast region.

Peeling away

Some reports indicate that the Nyali MP Awiti of Wiper is spearheading the alleged plot, with the hope of peeling away Luo and Akamba and uniting with the Mijikenda, in the hope of bringing war to Joho?s doorsteps.

Awiti appeared to disclose the alleged conspiracy when he declared his party would sponsor candidates for all elective seats in a county dominated by ODM, for which Joho is deputy party leader.

Yesterday, the senator denied fighting the governor or having an interest in his seat. He denied that there was a rift between them.

?I have no interest in the governor?s seat,? Hassan Omar says adding that ?it is too early to predict what will happen in 2017.?

The senator claimed he has been absent from Joho?s functions because he now has added responsibility as WDM Secretary General and also sits on a panel that manages Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). ?I have been busy strengthening my impact in the Senate, attending Senate committee meetings and particularly working on a Bill that seeks to foster realisation of basic social constitutional rights,? he said.

Omar said the rift between him and the governor is imagined and that his only heightened activity in Coast is in regard to strengthening WDM and CORD.

?As CORD, we have set our eyes in the 2017 election and that is why we are strengthening our party so that we will not make the mistakes we made in 2013,? said Omar.

Joho said he cannot begrudge anyone from aspiring for any post in Mombasa County. ?I have no problem with anybody who wants to contest the gubernatorial seat in Mombasa come 2017,? he said. By naming Omar as Sectary General and Lamu County Women Representative Shakila Abdalla as Deputy Party Leader, Jomvu MP Badi Twalib and Awiti as Deputy Organising Secretary and Treasurer, respectively, Wiper appeared determined to boost its appeal in the Coast. Awiti is an on-and-off critic of Joho.

Winning formula

Senator Omar hopes to expand his network within CORD but analysts warn he has a hard task taking on Joho who also enjoys close relationship with CORD co-principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka who have huge support in Coast. Political analyst Dr Hassan Mwakimako believes Senator Omar is trying to break away from Joho?s grip.

?The senator wants to run away from the notion that he was propped up by Joho to win the Senate seat.?

And given his record and the manner of speaking, Dr Mwakimako believes the senator remains an asset for CORD?s mobilization in Coast and among Muslims.

In 2013 Omar floored Mining Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala and former Changamwe MP Ramadhan Kajembe to win the senate seat.

By WILLIS OKETCH, The Standard

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