Kenyans went to the polls on 9th August 2022 to elect leaders who will run their affairs at the national and county levels for the next five years. It was a long and arduous journey that left majority of the people especially the candidates for different positions financially and psychologically drained. While the poll winners are basking in election victory, the losers have gone into hibernation at least for a couple of months after a bruising political battle.
In Marsabit County the governor-elect, Hon. Mohamud Ali trounced five other candidates to extend his stay for a further period of five years, his second and final term. He garnered 38,803 votes against his closest challenger, Hon. Francis Chachu Ganya who got 28,279 votes. As the governor-elect prepares to take oath of office on 25th August 2022, I take a brief look at the political journey of a man who despite some fierce rebellion in his own backyard continues to excel in elective politics.
A self-made politician
Hon. Mohamud is a self-made politician, rising from a humble background and today establishing himself as the de facto political leader of the Borana nation. Like his political mentor Hon. William Ruto, he is a canny political operator who charted his own political path despite facing myriad of challenges growing up and seeking elective seats. When he became Member of Parliament (MP) for Moyale constituency in 2007, he was only 34 years old and perhaps already shooting for the stars. His first stab at the governor’s seat was in 2013 but lost the contest to Hon. Ukur Yattani.
Opposition in his backyard
His political opponents often questioned his family lineage and always tried to nip in the bud his political dreams. In his own backyard of Sololo and the larger Moyale, Hon. Mohamud and the late Hon. Dr Guracha Boru Galgallo did not see eye to eye. The late Hon. Dr. Guracha was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Moyale constituency in 1997 and re-elected in 2002. He died in an air crash on 10th April 2006. The late Hon. Philip Galm Godana, an orator par excellence who also served as Moyale MP between 1988-1992, was another strong critic of Hon. Mohamud. Perhaps the fiercest opposition came in 2017 when most Borana leaders including Hon. Roba Duba, Hon. Jarso Jillo Fallana and a host of others opposed his candidature for the gubernatorial position. In that election, Ukur Yattani got more votes in Sololo than in any other Borana region. Why were all these leaders opposed to him? Did they know something we didn’t and still don’t know? Could it be mere political rivalry?
His opponents accuse him of entrenching and normalizing a culture of handouts and buying out voters from rival camps with ill-gotten wealth. They argue that the revered Gada institution hasn’t been spared either. Once held in high esteem by its subjects and celebrated the world over as an age-old cultural and socio-political traditional governance system, this hallowed institution is gradually losing its appeal among some sections of Borana. In a conservative society like ours, handouts tend to induce a moral obligation of reciprocity on the part of the recipients who invariably support the candidate giving them money. A prominent Borana elder from Moyale described to this writer how holders of the Gada cultural seats have been duped, used and dumped by Marsabit County politicians. Pointing to the extent of political handouts, the venerable Karayu Qaliti, in one of the many political rallies in the run up to the 2022 general election said:
“….Gara Keenyaa khana birrii guurratan jedhan…” (you go to Kenya to collect money)
The unstructured involvement of the Gada institution in Kenyan politics, serving the narrow interests of the highest political bidders will no doubt dent its reputation.
First term in office
Hon. Mohamud’s victory in 2017 was seen as a political victory for Borana. A wave of optimism swept across Borana land from the lush green fields of Saku to the land of the imposing Abbo and Borolle mountains through to Moyale and across the border into Southern Ethiopia. In his bid to rally voters in the run up to the 2017 general elections, Hon. Mohamud made a host of promises. His first headache was to strike a delicate balance to endeavour to fulfil the campaign promises within the confines of the law. He soon found himself between the hammer and the anvil.
Once in office, the governor hit the ground running with a recruitment drive meant to right the wrongs done by his predecessor. This soon put him in the eye of the storm with investigative agencies hot on his heels. While there was general consensus that the recruitment drive was laudable, many felt that it was done with no regard for merit or regional balance. The governor was held hostage by a small clique of highly powerful individuals-tender cartels– who called the shots in his government. Addressing the nation at KICC after filing the 2022 presidential election petition, the Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga stated that ‘No nation, once captured by cartels………ever thrived or realised its true potential’
Hon. Mohamud’s first term was also characterised by a near revolt from within his own administration. Employees were reportedly going months without pay and the operations of most departments ground to a halt with senior staff talking ill of the same government they were serving and vowing to humiliate the governor at the ballot. Staff morale was at an all-time low. Contractors were not getting paid. The governor was christened “Mr. Fuliza” among many other names. (Fuliza is a Safaricom service that allows you to complete your Mpesa transactions even when you have insufficient funds. When you deposit money into your Mpesa account, the amount borrowed is automatically deducted). A common joke within Marsabit town was that the sight of a helicopter hovering above Marsabit town or governor’s mere presence in office signalled availability of funds in the County Treasury accounts! He is said to remain holed up in Nairobi when the county coffers run dry.
The unwarranted and unlawful action by National Treasury CS to withhold funds from Marsabit County towards the end of FY 2021/22 also exacerbated the already dire situation. Going into the 2022 elections therefore, the odds were stacked against the incumbent.
The 2022 Marsabit County Gubernatorial contest was initially billed as the battle of the titans, a two-horse race pitting the incumbent Hon. Mohamud against Treasury CS Ukur Yattani. These two, having established themselves as Marsabit County’s political heavyweights were preparing for a bruising political duel. The CS Treasury Ukur Yattani however dropped his political ambitions at the last minute saying he needed to help president Uhuru Kenyatta consolidate his legacy as well as presiding over a smooth transition at the National Treasury. This meant that Hon. Mohamud was running against political greenhorns. Prof. Wario Guyo, a university don ran a lifeless campaign. His attempt to hurriedly sneak in the Abba Gada to endorse his candidature came to naught. The Prof. however did well in the gubernatorial debate held in Marsabit and seemed to have a good grasp of real issues affecting Marsabit County. Mr. Sunya Orre, riding on the R4G (Rendille-for-Governor) wave left his plum job as Ag.CEO National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and threw his hat into the political ring. He concentrated his campaigns in Laisamis sub-county, his backyard.
Mr. Kello Harsama, a long-serving civil servant and a typical Moi-era administrator ran a disjointed campaign. Were it not for Hon. Halkano Konso, the abrasive renegade Uran MCA, Mr. Kello would have been inconsequential. Mr. Pius Yattani aka Ole Woye, a loose-cannon, one-term MCA for Turbi ward who knew he had no chance in hell of becoming governor despite money flowing into his campaign from CS Ukur. He was just a pawn in Ukur’s Gabra political chess game. Hon. Chachu Ganya, a seasoned politician who served as North Horr MP for three consecutive terms ran an organized and decent campaign. He weathered a barrage of insults from CS Ukur Yattani and soldiered coming in a distant second.
Hon. Mohamud and his team comprising of his running mate, Hon. Solomon Gubbo, Women Rep hopeful Hon. Nasra Mohamed and Hon. Abubakar Harugurah who was defending his senatorial seat traversed the County hunting for votes. During the campaigns, Hon. Mohamud, an orator in his native Borana language wowed his main constituents, the Borana-speaking populace with his flowery language punctuated at times with anecdotal narratives. His description of some of the Governor aspirants left audiences in stitches, oftentimes with newly coined phrases and punch lines delivered with much gusto and fanfare. His running mate, Hon. Solomon Gubbo on the other hand was an insignificant player in the 2022 elections. He failed to mobilize his own community, almost to the point of sheer humiliation.
Oath of Office
The people of Marsabit have extended Hon. Mohamud’s stay in office for a further period of five years. This is a chance for him to right any wrongs he may have done during his first term in office. The Governor-elect is expected to take oath of office on 25th August 2022. The oath reads in part:
“…that I shall diligently discharge my duties and perform my functions in the said office; and I will do justice to all in accordance with the Constitution and the Laws of Kenya without fear, favour, affection or ill-will………”
As expected, people are already jostling for positions. Delegations after delegations are trooping to the governor-elect’s residence in Nairobi and Marsabit. Like the deadly wild dogs hunting in packs, others are grouping and re-grouping to secure positions and tenders. The great people of Marsabit elected a Governor. They hold him responsible. They are watching.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BGM’s editorial stance.