A Coast Political Party – Is Putting the Cart Before the Horse?
By HAMISI MWAGUYA
(Advisor on urban planning and development-Mombasa County)
Listening to the latest sounds of clamouring for a Coast political party is like passing through a chaotic ‘mtumba’ market with each vendor desperately calling for your attention. One can hardly hear or feel a sense of a common purpose or direction from the emanating noises.
Interesting though is that the call for a coastal party is not new for the region; we have had several parties in the past with many being classical briefcase outfits in the name of winding them up immediately after an election or bought for a whimper.
At the same time, we have had a few that have had their origin from pre-independent Kenya that were formed in the late 1950s and early 60s such as the Coast Peoples Party (CPP) that was largely made up of Arab descendants who were advocating for the “Mwambao” ideology.
The party was for autonomy of the 10-mile Coastal stripe that was being administered by the British Colonial Government as a protectorate of the Sultan of Zanzibar.
Others were the Mombasa African Democratic Union (MADU), the Kilifi African Peoples Union (KAPU) and the Kwale African Democratic Union (KWADU).
These pre-and-post independent parties pushed for a different agenda from that of CPP by fronting the aspect of autochthony or native land ownership agenda and vehemently stood for a united Kenya.
One bright Saturday, on the 25th of June 1960, a gallant Ronald Ngala held a historic meeting with other leaders of different political parties largely from other minority communities to form the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU).
This was after Ngala had rejected the position of national treasurer for the Kenya African National Union (KANU) which he had been bequeathed in absentia at a meeting in Kiambu earlier that year in April.
The parties that came together to form KADU included Moi’s Kalenjin Political Alliance, the Coast African Political Union (CAPU), the Maasai United Front (MUF) which was agitating for an independent Maasai State from Kenya and Tanzania, Masinde Muliro’s Baluhya Political Union (BPU) which later became the Kenya African People’s Party (KAPP), and the Somali National Union representing the Northern Frontier District.
KADU was a national party in its own right with a cross cutting ideology of protecting the minority communities of Kenya and pushing for regionalism or “Majimboism” as a means to a broader socio-economic equity and prosperity in Kenya.
The party, however, never lasted long due to coercion and poaching of its members by KANU and it eventually dissolved in 1964 making Kenya a de facto one-party state.
Even as majority of the Coastal “communities” agitate for a unified political party, key and critical questions need to be asked and answered.
What is the true clarion call? How do the “Coastarians” make the process of forming a political party widely participatory and inclusive?
Lest the region ends up with moribund political outfits such as Republican Congress, Shirikisho or Chama Cha Uzalendo.
What the Coast people really need is first and foremost, unity of purpose and people centred leadership.
The main reason why most Coast Political Parties have failed to survive the test of time and the machinations of other regional parties is the lack of a unifying mantra.
Any political party that lacks strong grassroots support and is formed on the basis of egoism will not serve the long-term aspirations of this region.
There is a need to identify issues and interests that are common in the Coastal region. It is these issues and interests that will determine the foundation blocks to lay in order to build an authentic “Coast” political party.
Imperative to the realization of this elusive coastal dream is the need for a wider consultative process with caucuses formed to inculcate a unified position and leadership ethos from the ground up. Egoismand entitlement must be abhorred.
Of critical importance, the Coast people need to identify their peers at the national stage so as to craft a solid position for the region, because a regional party without a national outlook will negate the power to lobby for a space at the high table.
As the old adage says, if you are not at the table you are on the menu. This reality ought to be the impetus for the creation of an authentic “Coastal” political party.
Unfortunately, the region has been accustomed to hitch-hiking on political waves that quickly fizzle away into oblivion immediately after the general elections.
The euphoria that comes into play during election time is usually grounded on hallucination and false hope for a region that is different in its history and cultural orientation.
These political parties mean nothing for the regions they purport to partner with, apart from being in the same bandwagon in crafting attractive slogans and party anthems only suitable for the moment.
This is confirmed by the fact that beyond general elections, these political parties abandon their grassroots and support bases (if they were any), closes any temporary offices that dotted the region during the campaigns, leaving the electorate to wonder in suspension and frustration.
“A Coast Political Party” must be different, it must resonate with the aspirations of all those who live and count the coast as their home.
A party that shall consistently address the region’s social, economic and political challenges with fundamental ideologies that is true to the history and ambitions of its people, then, it shall be the party to support.
For this to happen, however, the current leadership of the region must first shelve its ego and accept that the interests of the people come before anything else.
The initiative must take cognizance of regions social, racial, ethnic, economic and religious diversity and interests. It must take deliberate steps to bridge these gaps and ensure inclusivity in order to build a unity of purpose.
The leadership must desist from talking at each other and start talking with each other. They must learn from other regions that speak in one voice when it comes to the interests of their people.
Auspiciously, the noise at the “chaotic mtumba market” is widespread, the agitation and clamor for change is real.
The Kadzos, Mwanajumas, Faridas, and Chaos are now more informed than ever. The pain of the past years will no longer be washed away by simple slogans and falsehoods aimed to hoodwink and bamboozle the masses.
The drive is now at the grassroots, all it needs is for it to be consolidated and harnessed for the prosperity of all those who call the Coast their home.
Edited by Mwakera Mwajefa