Mohamed Mohamud – Teacher who took on Muthaura

In the race for the parliamentary seat, Mohamud vied on a Kenya African National Union (KANU) party ticket and beat opponents from six Opposition parties – FORD-Asili, Safina, Kenya Social Congress, Social Democratic Party, Democratic Party and National Development Party.

Mohamud became the sixth MP for Wajir East, with KANU winning three out of the four parliamentary seats in the entire Wajir District (present-day Wajir County). Wajir North was won by Abdillahi Ibrahim Ali and Wajir South by Mohamed Abdi Affey. In Wajir West, the seat was taken by Safina’s Adan Keynan.

Following the win, President Daniel arap Moi appointed Mohamud as an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Trade and Industry. He would later move to the Ministry of Transport and Communications in the same capacity.

In the 2002 General Election, when KANU was swept out of power by the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) and Mwai Kibaki became President, Mohamud was among several leaders from pastoralist communities who managed to retain their seats. KANU, however, won only 64 seats in Parliament compared to NARC’s 125.

In the ensuing period, during which NARC experienced wrangles between members of the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) and the Liberal Democratic Party, President Kibaki formed a Government of National Unity, which included MPs from Ford-People and KANU. In the expanded structure, Mohamud was appointed Minister for Regional Development Authorities, becoming the first chief of the newly-created ministry. His Assistant Minister was veteran Kisumu politician Peter Odoyo, the current Chief Administrative Secretary in the Department of Defence.

The Ministry of Regional Development Authorities was established under Presidential Circular No. 3/2003 on the organisation of government, with a mandate to provide policy guidance, enhance capacity building and support regional development authorities. By that time there were six regional development authorities that had operated under different Acts of Parliament since the 1970s. They were Kerio Valley Development Authority, Ewaso Nyiro North Development Authority, Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority, Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority, Coast Development Authority and Lake Basin Development Authority.

The regional development authorities were established in the 1970s on the basis of river basins, catchments and coastal resources in the country, with the aim that they could help rationalise equitable and balanced sustainable regional and national development in the country. However, they had remained ineffective for decades, and it was now Mohamud’s job to make a change.

This was no easy task as he was handed a new ministry with no funding and no policies in place. Still, he helped to develop a policy and pushed the Cabinet to approve more funding for regional development authorities.

He also initiated efforts to revive the multi-billion shilling Tana Delta Rice scheme and, in March 2007, launched the KES 3 billion Kimira-Oluch small-holder irrigation scheme in Rachuonyo and Homa Bay districts – 22 years after the idea was first mooted. The scheme was expected to improve farming in the area and create thousands of jobs. To date, however, it is yet to be fully completed.

He also led negotiations that saw the commercialisation of Wajir Airport, which for decades had served as a military base, and spearheaded massive reforms at the Ewaso Nyiro Authority to revitalise the institution’s management structure and delivery of services in northern Kenya.

Mohamud has also been credited with securing a KES 700 million grant for the expansion of Wajir District Hospital, negotiating for the construction of the Garissa-Modogashe road and sourcing funds amounting to KES 500 million for water projects in arid and semi-arid regions.

“I have worked for all of Wajir throughout my life,” he said in a 2007 interview.

His tenure as a Cabinet Minister will be remembered for the successful launch of various projects. Unfortunately, some of these are yet to be completed, or failed to kick off altogether.

Towards the tail end of his term as Minister, he conceded to the less-than-expected performance of his docket and attributed it to lack of a ministerial policy.

“To discharge our functions, it has been very difficult in the sense that there is currently no regional development policy to provide a framework and direction for effective supervision of the authorities,” the Minister said in March 2007 during a national stakeholders’ workshop in Nairobi on the drafting of the Regional Development Policy.

He added that the ministry had been relying on policies from other sectors to draw up strategies, and in most cases they had not been very effective.

In November 2007, Mohamud was involved in a dispute with Francis Muthaura, who at the time was Head of the Civil Service, over the appointment of parastatal chiefs.

In a stunning departure from the norm, the Minister called a press conference during which he accused Muthaura of usurping his powers, breaking the law concerning the establishment of State corporations and contravening a circular he (Muthaura) wrote on the procedures to be followed in appointing heads of public organs.

Mohamud said the appointments were made despite the three parastatals that fell under his ministry having conducted interviews and forwarded the names of potential appointees to him. The unilateral decision, purportedly on the instructions of the Head of State, Mohamud said, had undermined him and affected the operations of the institutions.

Interestingly, Mohamud did not defend his parliamentary seat in the 2007 General Election, preferring to serve as the Party of National Unity (PNU) elections coordinator in northern Kenya. The PNU was a coalition of political parties under which Kibaki successfully ran for a second presidential term.

The Wajir East seat was eventually won by Mohamed Elmi, who is currently the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

After leaving Cabinet, Mohamud served as Kenya’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. In 2013, following the 2010 promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya that established a devolved system of government, he made an unsuccessful run for the governorship of Wajir County. He would win on his second attempt in 2017, running on a Jubilee Party ticket after a negotiated democracy among clans where the Fai Sultanate, a respected clan system among the Somalis, picked him to vie for the seat.

Mohamud comes from the vote-rich Fai clan of the Degodia who inhabit Wajir East and Tarbaj constituencies.

Mohamud has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in diplomacy and international relations from Kampala International University. His long career in public service straddles education, public administration and diplomacy.

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