Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho’s strong stance against encroachment by verbiage-filled commissioner Nelson Marwa should be replicated everywhere in the country. No county commissioner in Kenya has attempted, so valiantly, to usurp the powers of the governor, and micro-manage the affairs of a sovereign county, like Mr. Marwa.
What the Joho-Marwa tiff has also exposed is the extent to which Mr. Marwa wants to go to assert his non-existent authority in the county including on such trivial issues as the management of a Facebook page.
Mr. Marwa had the audacity to order a Facebook page exclusively reporting on crime in the county to be shut down. He went further as to refer to the administrator a suspected criminal-cum-terrorist and ordered his arrest.
The power dynamics in Mombasa has shown how the national government is desperate to have a political footing in the county which has remained radically anti-Nairobi (or should I say anti-Kiambu?).
Not long ago, Mr. Marwa ruled Mombasa like a colonial serf. At the height of his hubris, my friend Macharia Wa Njoki endorsed him for the post of IG, until the powers higher above Mr. Macharia chose the clueless Joseph Boinet from the ‘Jubilee 2017 equation’ chessboard to be the new IG. But I digress!
Governor Joho has done two things to neutralise Marwa. First, he has consistently proven that the ‘security ideology’ pursued by Mr. Marwa radicalises more youths to join extremist organizations.
Marwa’s security architecture has for long been based on indiscriminate violence on helpless Mombasa youths. On the other hand, he has often ‘bought’ the loyalties of other youths, especially up-country youths of certain ethnic groups.
It is no wonder at the height of this violence, marked by arrests and killings of Muslim sheikhs -radicals and moderates alike – and youths, some as young as 13 years, Mombasa was the most insecure county. Lamu would later take the prime position.
What did Joho do? First, he struck an alliance with western countries which had ‘silently’ supported the ‘war on terror’ in Mombasa. Several meetings with both the US and UK saw these two countries, and many others, change their attitude toward Mombasa, and their understanding of the root causes of contemporary home-bred terrorism. In the end, they stopped issuing travel advisories.
And rather than fund the ‘hardware’ of the war on terror, most western countries started funding the ‘software’ of this war -empowering the county government and other local actors -including human rights organizations like HAKI and MUHURI – to reach out to the youths that Marwa’s indiscriminate violence had pushed to extremism.
A vision of a new Mombasa steadily and assuredly started emerging and Marwa was not part of it. The Mombasa of peace meetings and county opportunities for all. The Mombasa of Muslims and Christians, side by side, united by shared claim to the present and future, not the fear and terror of the past.
Marwa’s bosses in Nairobi noticed, and the man’s rising star suddenly stopped, halted by its own baggage.Today, Marwa’s knee jerk actions are just but a footnote in an oceanic world that shifted beneath his own three legs.
Marwa’s story is not unique. It is what writer Washington Irvin chronicles in that now acclaimed folklore around Mr. Rip Van Winkle. Simply, Commissioner Nelson Marwa ‘slept through a revolution’.
The Mombasa he straddled under his feet no longer exists!
The second thing Joho did and which is more critical than the first, is to be the sole political leader of Mombasa as envisioned in our constitution.
The place of Mombasa, like that of Kisumu, Bomet and Turkana, was the subject of at least two referenda and one post-poll violence. The idea of Mombasa as an off-shoot of any other region in this country was decided sometime in 2010 and the verdict was clear: A YES VOTE declared Mombasa ‘sovereignly devolved’.
Marwa wasn’t part of this vote. Him, like his 47 other colleagues, are enduring vestiges of a system that would today be where dodo the bird is, had the victors of the 2010 vote took over power in 2013. But it will not be long.
Joho’s success in taming a rogue colonialist should be replicated anywhere the new African colonialists attempt to pacify . You notice Marwa’s failed tactics are now being tested in Kisumu, where another commissioner, Francis Mutie, is starting a feckless ‘ownership’ war with the sovereign county government of Kisumu.
For Ranguma and Ms. Odinga; the template is now there. Reach out to Gov. Joho. And Kisumu being the birthplace of all struggles, it should be easy.
For us, the choice is clear: Devolution Today!!! Devolution Forever!!!