The Uhuru-Joho SGR Deal that Backfired Leading to their Acrimonious Fallout.


For one to be deemed a serious political player, one must have demonstrated some level of consistency, brilliance, patience, wisdom, bravery in the public sphere. One must also have shown resilience and high levels administrative and management acumen.

Although Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho has lately be seen as having cut a niche for himself as an indefatigable and foremost defender of the Raila Odinga, many people ask where did Joho disappear to in the wake of the discredited 2013 presidential polls when Raila Odinga was abandoned by newly elected ODM leaders after the infamous Supreme Court ruling. So lonely and exposed was Raila that some ODM legislators openly rebelled and started flirting with Uhuruto.

During this time the Joho brothers (Abu and Ali Hassan) and Uhuruto were a tight item in business circles going as far as agreeing on a secret deal for acquisition of licenses to operate custom bonded warehouses along the SGR route through the Joho family owned Container Freight Stations.

Those are the days Raila Odinga used to go to the coast and Joho immediately flies out to Dubai to evade Raila. Many people forget it was Wiper’s Hassan Omar Hassan who hosted Raila in Mombasa those days.

Later, Joho was to re-emerge alongside Ababu Namwamba in a strange outfit financed by Ruto known as Team Fresh. The amorphous but highly liquid movement demanded for ODM national elections going as far as to attempt a hostile take over of ODM leadership. This went on up to the acrimonious and abortive ODM NDC at Kasarani in which Men-In-Black stepped in and saved the party with an imminent Ruto coup in the offing.

Unlike Hassan Omar Hassan who stuck by Raila Odinga from 2013 and hosted both Raila and Kalonzo for various iftar dinners, traversed the entire country demanding for structured national dialogue and eventually dropped everything to collect referendum signatures for Okoa Kenya, Joho was focused on cutting deals with Uhuru and never bothered to participate in opposition campaigns.

As a matter of fact, Joho collected no single referendum signature, participated in no single Okoa Kenya rally but was busy partying between UAE and Italy, courting Jubilee, and pursuing selfish business deals for himself and his brother Abu Joho. In those early years, as numerous Auditor General reports have shown, Mombasa County Government was also loosing millions of public funds to cartels formed by Joho.

It is said that Joho’s frequently changing loyalty, highly opinionated nature, false public bravado and live for quick money are his main undoing which led to his fall out with Uhuru and many other close associates.

In contrast to Hassan Omar, Joho offers very little inspiration to youth. Listen to any Joho speech, it is often devoid of substance and issues. But listen to any Hassan Omar speech, you are likely to come out refreshed with new thinking.

Then, unlike Hassan Omar Hassan, Joho possesses no history of having participated in second liberation, constitutional reform or even university student leadership all of which are credentials necessary to navigate Kenya treacherous political terrain.

Further, Joho’s premature declaration that he is running for presidency in 2022 was seen as a disrespectful ambition at a time electoral and security were needed in the national spectrum. This is when entire opposition was focused on reforms through Okoa Kenya which Joho snubbed out of fear of upsetting Uhuru Kenyatta.

But serious political commentators know this whole Joho for president affair is a charade and political posturing geared towards becoming Ruto’s running mate for 2022.

Expert analysis indicates that by prematurely announcing his presidential bid and fervently supporting Raila Odinga who has said he will be a transitional one-term president, Ali Hassan Joho strategy is to raise his political stakes in the post Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta era. It is also an attempt to checkmate Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi both of whom are next in line in the Raila succession.

Eventually, when Uhuru Kenyatta disowned the SGR deal with the Joho brothers, this became the genesis of the Uhuru vs Joho public feud, a deal gone sour that has since morphed into a personal war between the Johos and the Kenyattas who have, to Abu’s horror, terminated SGR at the family estate at Naivasha and constructed a dry port complete with custom bonded warehouses that Abu and Joho were salivating for.

Joho’s posturing has nothing to do with welfare of coastals or the marginalized. It has nothing to do with Mombasa port. There is no doubt Joho’s recent antics are coming after the realization that he is not indispensable and that he is a peripheral player in major political realignments that will dramatically change the political landscape.



Written by Charles Dienya

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