A vicious fight has erupted among Coast tycoons and politicians as they plot on who would have a say in a post-Jubilee government after the 2022 general election.At the centre of the bare knuckles fight is a group aligned to Abubakar Joho who is Mombasa vovernor Hassan Joho’s elder brother and another group that coalesces around Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd owner Mohammed Jaffer. The two groups are fighting on who among them will have Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga’s attention as the country prepares to have a new president.
Mombasa influential businessmen and wheelerdealers have over the years graced the corridors of power cutting deals and influencing political developments. During the Kanu era of Daniel arap Moi they were the people to go to if you wanted a political office, public land, government house, jobs or government tenders. They made their money by cutting deals.Their word was law from Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu and Taita Taveta.
At the time, their boss was a sugar baron Rashid Sajjad of then Bawazir Maize Millers and Milly Glass Works. During Moi days, Sajjad’s circle had Mohammed Bawazir, Mohammed Zubedi (Nawal Centre), OM Bayusuf (transporter), Tahir Sheikh Said (TSS), Ibrahim Akasha (drug baron), Shadid Butt (Modern Coast), Mohamed Jaffer (Grainbulk), Alnoor Jiwan (Alba Petroleum), Edwin Yinda (shipping) Shariff Nasir (Mvita MP), Said Hemed (Kisauni MP), Said Kajembe and Ahmed Mwidani. When Mwai Kibaki came to power after the 2002 general election, a new group of power brokers emerged coalescing around Ali Punjani (Rising Star owner).
They included Abu, a new sugar baron called Twalib Hayatan (Mat International), Brown Ondego (then KPA MD), Kosla (Coast Hauliers), Mohamed Islam (Mombasa Maize Millers), Karisa Maitha (Kisauni MP), Suleiman Shakombo (Likoni MP) among others. Today most of these tycoons and politicians are either dead and those alive are a pale shadow of former selves after being haunted from the corridors of power by the new power barons headed by Abu and his younger brother Joho. Abu is now the Coast kingmaker under Uhuru’s government where he controls political developments from the counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Taita-Taveta and Tana River.
His rival group that now revolves around former senator Hassan Omar and Kwale governor Salim Mvurya are chaperoned by Jaffer.In Jaffer’s corner are politicians and businessmen who don’t-see-eye-to-eye with the Johos who include Islam, Hayatan, Hezron Awiti (Habo Agencies), Ondego (Jaffer’s partner), Nyali MP Ali Mohamed (Jicho Pevu), Omar, Tourism CS Najib Balala, Kwale governor Salim Mvurya and Lamu governor Fahim Twaha. Those on Abu Joho’s side include Zubedi, Hasu Patel (Owner of Mombasa Cement), Kilifi governor Amason Kingi, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Sheriff, Mombasa women rep Aisha Jumwa among others.
Although some of the tycoons and even politicians in these two groups were close to DP William Ruto, some of them are said to have deserted him after he fell out with Uhuru as they wait for Uhuru to run his course. “Although some of the tycoons benefitted immensely from DP Ruto, most of them are now avoiding him fearing reprisals from the government. They only want to be seen with Uhuru or Raila,” a source said. Recent explosive exposes by Nyali’s Jicho Pevu showing how the Johos and Abdulswamad have been allocated berths at the port in order not to question the transfer of key port service from Mombasa to the Naivasha dry port is said to be part of this 2022 succession politics.
Also linked to this supremacy wars is the controversy surrounding the construction of a mosque in Mwembe Legeza, Nyali constituency which the local MP Jicho Pevu has been accused of demolishing because it was being constructed by Governor Joho. The mosque is currently being constructed under the influence of Abu who has managed to suppress Jicho Pevu because of the influence he has in the corridors of power as opposed to Moha as Jicho Pevu is called who is said to be a DP Ruto sympathiser. The Coast tycoons powergames are mainly displayed whenever Uhuru or Raila visit Coast as they not only line up at the Moi International Airport to receive them but they go to great lengths to get their attention.
Political watchers in Coast say while this was the same with DP Ruto in the past, these days most of the tycoons and politicians are not seen near the deputy president.The coast tycoons are known to have deep pockets as most of them are multibillionaire merchants involved in the importation of commodities, oil, electronics and have good links in the Middle East which they leverage to support presidential candidates. During presidential campaigns they raise billions of shillings to support candidates they deem are likely to win the presidency. In the previous general elections they have raised money for both Uhuru and Raila albeit discreetly as he was an opposition leader.
The Coast tycoons are good at edging their bets by funding both the likely winner of the presidential race and the rivals just in case in order to protect their interests. In one of their fundraising missions for Uhuru and Ruto ahead of the 2017 general election they raised at least Sh1 billion in an exclusive invite-only dinner. The intention is to spread their risk so that which ever way the election goes, they are covered. They are the lot that is called Agip or any government in power and so are a dangerous unreliable breed. Mombasa tycoons are known to offer campaign donations and then after elections start demanding for contracts and other favours from those elected.
The tycoons are members of an elite business exclusive club and although at times are seen as fighting each other over lucrative business deals from the government, they end up agreeing on how to use their leverage to benefit all of them. Campaign funding in Kenya has been linked to major scandals that emerge around election seasons, like the recent Sh75 billion Arror-Kamwarer dam and the Kemsa Covid-19 Sh53 billion scandals. It is going to be interesting to see how the political machinations and supremacy wars between Coast tycoons and their political ecolytes is going to pan out as political re-alignments among major political formations continue to shape up ahead of the 2022 general election.