The increasingly elusive Luo bloc vote in this year’s Mombasa gubernatorial election has made incumbent governor Ali Hassan Joho hold meetings with members of the Luo migrant community in Mombasa more than five times seeking their endorsement and support for his re-election.
Yesterday, Joho flew to Mombasa Luo Council of Elders Mzee Willis Otondi to convince Luos to vote for him. Mzee Otondi is also expected to hold another meeting between Joho and NASA Presidential candidate Raila Odinga and key Luo grassroots leaders ahead of NASA rally on Friday.
Mzee Otondi, with a number of Luo sages, have been booked at the exclusive tourist resort English Point Marina, where the oldies will enjoy services like Jacuzzi, hot spa, steam and sauna; and feed on fresh lobsters, marinated tuna forced down a rickety throat with a sip of the 2009 Chateau Margaux wine as they mull over important questions of the day, like how to safely deliver a win to Sultan Mwitu 001.
Joho, whose pole position as Deputy Party Leader of ODM had all along assured him of the automatic Luo support is facing the political fight of his life should he lose this group which has been the bedrock of his political evolution, but which now is up for grabs, following a fallout with Joho.
Many are gravitating towards Senator Hassan Omar Hassan. Others are openly saying they will vote for Awiti Bolo, whether he wins is another matter. In short, many voters are ready for an anti-Joho protest vote.
This is the backdrop in which the Mombasa Governor is seeking for figureheads within the Luo community to mend political fences.
ODM Leader Raila Odinga has thrice tried, each time the meeting ending in disarray. In the Otondi meeting yesterday, tempers flared.
Like many other ‘upcountry’ communities in Mombasa, Luos accuse Joho of deliberately isolating them from jobs and opportunities in Mombasa county, then systematically purging some of their leaders from political positions of power.
“Luos had competed fairly and won a few seats in Mombasa. Joho made it appear like Luos were taking over everything. He created a new ‘anti-Luo’ feeling among our coastal hosts who for the first time didn’t view as as brothers and sisters but as competitors for their resources and opportunities. This was the handiwork of Joho,” explains a former MCA, a Luo.
To win Kisauni constituency, Joho had galvanized the Luo vote, importing some voters as far as Kwale to register and facilitating them in the 2007 polls to cast their ballots for him. As Governor candidate in 2013, it was again Kisauni constituency that decisively voted for his gubernatorial bid, where he floored then Wiper candidate Suleiman Shabhal with a razor-thin margin.
“Unlike the time (Najib) Balala was the ODM de facto leader in Mombasa, now we see a rising Joho building his own brand away from ODM, while using ODM support to scale the heights. It is disingenuous,” he adds.
“Joho is a self-centered man beyond the public shows. ODM is struggling in Mombasa and this is perhaps ODM’s last chance. He may win but he has really weakened ODM,” another person offers.
NASA rally on Friday will see Joho and Omar share the first, and last, major political platform, with accusations already flying of each side mobilizing for violence, should it get to that eventuality.