A tweet from Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s aide on Sunday is said to have sparked a massive security operation that barred Mr Joho from a function presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday. The tweet said the governor would ‘respond’ to the President’s criticism at the Tononoka rally. What followed was a massive security operation that involved heavily armed General Service Unit, presidential guards, Kenya Police, forest rangers and plainclothes detectives. The security forces had firm instructions to keep Joho and his supporters from Uhuru’s function at the Likoni Ferry Channel.
The operation led to a lock-down of the coastal city. County traffic marshals were ordered off the streets as armed officers took over. State officials confided to The Standard that they had express orders to bar Joho from leaving his Nyali home across Nyali Bridge and bar him and his supporters from crossing to the South Coast until the President’s function was over. An officer who asked not to be named told The Standard that presidential guards were among the team involved in the operation against the governor.
Uhuru accused Joho of trailing him like “his wife” and “chest thumping to appear a hero by attacking the President.” “They should stop following me. I am not his wife. He should come here and explain what he has done for this country,” an agitated Uhuru told residents of Mtongwe, adding that “he (Joho) should not play with us or we will teach him a lesson.” The governor had earlier accused the security personnel of orchestrating “backwardness of the highest level” by ordering his confinement in his office and stopping him from attending the launch of a ferry service across the Mtongwe channel near the Mombasa port.
Meanwhile, the lock-down led to a massive traffic snarl-up especially on Nyali Bridge as the police, with sniffer dogs, stopped vehicles for a search, apparently looking for the governor. Joho had earlier managed to slip through the GSU barricade at his residence. Speaking later to journalists, he revealed how he managed to get into town in a private vehicle which was eventually impounded at the bridge.
“I was in a private car belonging to a relative but could not go far due to an unusual traffic snarl up occasioned by police checks. They (police) managed to even stop my official vehicle but only found the driver as I had used alternative means,” he said. At the bridge a standoff and war of words ensued between Joho and Mombasa Urban Directorate of Criminal Investigation Offficer (DCIO), Jacob Kanake, who led the team of officers manning the bridge, when governor was barred from moving into town.
“Do not threaten me officer. Do not threaten me with death because everybody is born once and dies once,” Joho who was accompanied by his chief of staff Idriss Abdulrahman said as tempers flared amid pushing and shoving. Joho, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and Kisauni legislator Rashid Bedzimba engaged in a bitter exchange with Kanake and his officers.
Youths gathered at the scene and began shouting “stop harassing our governor!” Joho and the MPs slipped into a private vehicle. Moments later, he entered the city on a motorcycle and addressed journalists in his office which was also surrounded by armed policemen. Addressing journalists, Joho said he was not trying to impose himself on Uhuru’s function, but felt he was duty-bound to attend the Mtongwe function to represent the people of Mombasa as their governor.
He said he also needed to be at the function to respond to “falsehoods and lies” he alleged the president peddled against him and his administration during the Tononoka rally. “The reason they did not want us to attend was because they felt we could get an opportunity to respond to the falsehoods and lies,” he said.
Joho cited an assertion by Uhuru on Saturday that the his administration had received Sh40 billion from the national government since 2013.
“This is not true because we have received about Sh17 billion since 2013,” he said, adding that the money was not a favour or gift “but in line with a constitutional obligation.” Joho also argued that besides “setting the record straight” on the cash disbursements from the national government he had an obligation to listen to what the State had to say about ferries, which he said, was a devolved function.
He said his government had rebuilt roads leading to the Mtongwe ferry service. Joho also claimed Uhuru feared he would raise the question of why squatters were asked to pay for settlement on the Waitiki Farm in Likoni last year after the State bought the land from its owner. Separately, several youths were arrested in Likoni and within town as crowds gathered after reports of Joho’s troubles spread.
The name of Coast Regional Commissioner Nelson Marwa came up in the incident, with Mvita legislator Abdulswamad Nassir claiming that the administrator had threatened him on Sunday night accusing ODM of planning to disrupt Uhuru’s function at Mtongwe. Mr Nassir told Mombasa Urban DCIO, who was overseeing the police operation, to stop threatening him and treat him with civility.
At the bridge Joho accused the DCIO of humiliating elected leaders. “You will one day become a civilian and will never like it when you are treated in such a manner,” a furious Joho who was joined at the police road block by Nassir and his Kisauni counterpart Rashid Bedzimba said. Kanake denied threatening Joho. Joho claimed he changed his mind about attending Uhuru’s function after learning that police had received orders to shoot his supporters.
Nassir said that local leaders will remain steadfast behind Joho and that no amount of harassment will make them change their minds. Mr Bedzimba said local leaders were shocked and could not comprehend whether confining them at Joho’s residence amounted to house arrest. “There is a difference between national function and Jubilee function.
It was wrong for them (Government) to prevent Governor Joho from attending the function,” Bedzimba said. As Uhuru’s motorcade roared past the governor’s office heading to State House, Mombasa, a group of residents chanted the governor’s name.