From beach overseer to Kilifi Governor: Gideon Mungaro’s political journey
In a candid interview on the sidelines of the Red Card campaign, Kilifi Governor Gideon Maitha Mungaro speaks about his electoral journey, his vision for Kilifi County, and the legacy of former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
NN: Let us revisit your election just over a year ago. How was your own campaign for the
the gubernatorial seat of Kilifi, especially considering that you were taking a second bite at the
cherry after you went for and lost the chance in 2017?
GM: It was a difficult decision to make, but once I had thrown the hat in the ring, I had my
family’s full support. I had opponents with very deep pockets (UDA’s Aisha Jumwa, the new
Cabinet Secretary for Youth, Arts and Culture, and PAA’s George Kithi). One of them even went around mocking us, saying ‘Huyo Mungaro hana pesa! (That Mungaro doesn’t have money)’ But as you saw from the inauguration last year, I have the love of the people because I have their interests at heart, being one with them, having been born here (in Dabaso). So, as they went around burning a lot of resources on the ground, I went door-to-door, from village to village, listening and taking note of the issues our folk face. Because I am a man who is very comfortable anywhere, with anyone. I have dined with princes, and with paupers.
NN: Having won with a landslide, or the proverbial ‘buried rivals in a political avalanche,’ what
county in terms of government did you inherit? Because even during the gubernatorial handover
(at the Karisa Maitha Grounds), there was a lot of vocal discontent towards your predecessor by
the public – “Kwenda Nyumbani” – and that kind of thing by shouting pockets of the crowd. Of
course, ironically, he (Amazon Kingi) is now the Speaker of the House.
GM: First of all, my office is very open to everyone. If anyone has an idea for or even criticism
of implementation of our projects, I welcome it and adapt as long as one come with a solution
and not just grumbles and mumbles. Integrity, transparency, and accountability are the key
watchwords and actions of my administration, in spite of spiteful allegations by some
NN: You have had about a quarter century of experience in various leadership positions at both
the county and the country level. How did that prepare you to head your own regional government?
GM: Three decades ago, as a young person, I was literally on the ground as an overseer of
beaches for our resorts that are a huge part of our tourism. Then in 1997, that led to my being
the main youth coordinator for the KANU campaigns in the region. After 2002, I became a
councilor and then Mayor of Malindi Town before taking on the long-term incumbent MP Joe
Khamisi for the Malindi constituency, getting about 34,800 votes to his 2,700. When they split
the constituency, I ran where my native ward is in Kilifi North in 2013 and got the victory.
NN: Then, in 2017, you ran on a Jubilee ticket against (then) ODM’s Governor Kingi and lost?
GM: Yes. I do not abandon friends (like President Uhuru Kenyatta) whom I’d known since 2002,
so I ran against the party wave at the Coast, to my own political cost. I was glad he then
appointed me as Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of Lands, where we got to
be of great service, both to the people of Kilifi, but also to the country. In my time, and it is on
record, we processed and gave out over 39,000 title deeds to the landless. Almost 100,000 are
on the way.
And we now can cooperate even with the president (Ruto) on any issue beneficial to Kilifians …
NN: Landlessness is a big problem in the country, and seems to be even bigger in Kilifi.
GM: We are looking to the county budget and having negotiations with both large landowners
and private entities here on what we can buy for (as a county) or how we can settle our
An example is Kakanjuni. We have 10,000 parcels for five thousand landless folks. The Gala land
has another 10,000 parcels for 4,800 residents. In Manduguni, we have sub-division going on.
NN: Uhuru Kenyatta has now been out of power for over a year, and many of his things ( like the
Telkom sale) are getting cancelled by the current government. What is his legacy, according to
you, how will history judge him?
GM: Look at the dual carriageway that connects our county from Malindi to Kilifi to Mtwapa to
Nyali. Or the Mariakani bypass that saves travelers time through unnecessary Mombasa
transits, or the Salaga road through Maungu, Mtito, Manyani, so that you don’t have to use
Mombasa Road. Kibaoni beach, Bamba Road, Sabaki bridge – and some of these black tar and
infrastructure projects are ‘asks’ that we made with former MP Naomi Shaban, and president
Uhuru said ‘Okay.’ And that’s before we go out to the rest of the country, to see his legacy in interconnection visually.
I think people, once things are there, get a blackout amnesia of how inconvenient it was before.
I always say “no one can fold up a road and take it home with them after their term is through.”
NN: If you were to, say, collaborate with new Tourism and Wildlife CS Alfred Mutua, what would
he find as a jewel here in Kilifi?
GM: We have better-boosted tourism in our region. Thanks to the infrastructure, we’ve just
spoken about, a tourist can now have breakfast in Malindi, lunch in the Tsavo, and dinner by
sunset in Watamu – and these are the varied experiences modern tourists want.
NN: Three years ago, residents of Kilifi North petitioned parliament about the Kenya Cashew
Nuts Factory, once the mainstay of the economy in the region, was fraudulently
transferred, plundered, and run down by 1996, after twenty years of processing about 300,000
tons of nuts?
GM: This is the tragic story of most of our homegrown industries, from here to Mumias (sugar).
But we are going to build cashew nut factories in Kakanjuni and Vipingo areas (where the
investor company Centum is already doing huge living projects). We are even looking at
coconut processing plant construction in the Mwawesa ward of Rabai constituency. Towards
this end, we are talking to partners like the World Bank funders for National Agricultural and
Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP). The cashew nut industry in Kilifi has to be resurrected, as it would employ around 100,000 people, most of them residents and our youth.