The Balalas: Powerful International Family That Spreads Across 4 Countries

  • Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala (centre) poses alongside his family relatives.
    Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala (centre) poses alongside his family relatives.
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    Najib Balala
  • As the country is just 71 days away from the General Election, lots of eyes will be on Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, who has kept his cards close to his chest on his next move

    Pundits and critiques have come out to point out that Najib's choice to stay away from active politics will leave him with the option of remaining as the Tourism CS in the subsequent government. 

    However, it would be a mistake to count out Najib who has amassed over two decades of experience in the political realm.

    Mombasa County Executive Committee member for Transport, infrastructure and public works, Taufiq Balala, speaks to the press.
    Mombasa County Executive Committee member for Transport, infrastructure and public works, Taufiq Balala, speaks to the press.
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    His influence has been enhanced by his networks and outreach which has seen him trade the private sector business for public life in politics. 

    Those who understand the CS's family, however, appreciate his ability to remain relevant even when he does not engage in the dirty political games that most of his colleagues partake in. His family's positive reputation and his networks around the globe have made him a valuable player in the local political scene and a liaison with other powerful governments. 

    The Balala family, which has its origins in Yemen, is one of the most politically connected families. It spreads two continents and has power connections in at least four countries.

    In Kenya, the second most known Balala is Najib's younger brother, Taufiq Balala. 

    Taufiq works in the Mombasa county government as a County Executive Committee member for Transport, infrastructure and public works.

    The CEC has been vocal in matters of issues dealing with the transport sector whereby he has been an advocate for new routes in the county in a bid to reduce congestion and eradicate traffic jams. 

    However, long before Najib got into politics, his brother - Sheikh Salim Balala - was a household name in coastal politics - and played a critical role from the 1950s to the 1960s. 

    Indeed, as Kenya headed to independence in the 1950s, Salim was vocal against a clarion call for the Coast region to be left as an autonomous region known as Mwambao. He instead rallied the Yemeni arabs to support Kanu.

    His support for the nationalism cause paid off as he served as an MP and Assistant Minister for Finance and Planning from 1966 to 1974. 

    "I'm proud to be a Kenyan but I'm also very proud to be Yemeni. I cannot run away from my ancestry because we have been part of this country and Africa's civilization. The first Yemen to come to east African settled in Lamu and from there Islam spread to this part of the world. 

    "My own brother was born in Yemen but became a minister in this government in the 1960s. Today, I'm a minister in the same government and we are part of this society," Balala stated during a meeting with Yemen Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed's visit to Nairobi in 2019. 

    In addition, Najib's cousin, Ahmed Abdullahi Balala is no stranger in the world of politics as he has amassed over 13 years of experience. Abdullahi is currently a Member of Parliament for the Malakpet constituency in India.

    Malapket hosts a number of Yemeni immigrants, including Ahmed, who remain conscious of their roots in the Gulf region

    The politician clinched the Malakpet parliamentary seat on an All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party ticket. Ahmed's re-election for the seat saw Najib laud him for the amazing feat. 

    "Congratulations Hon. Ahmed Bin Abdullah Balala for your re-election as Member of the Telangana Legislative Assembly Malakpet Constituency, India. A victory well deserved; you continue to make the Balala clan from all over the world proud. Alf Mabrouk!" read a past tweet from Najib Balala. 

    Firebrand Mombasa Islamic preacher Sheikh Khalid Balala, is also a relative of Najib. The sheikh entered Kenya's history books as the first Kenyan to have his citizenship cancelled and deported to Yemen - a country where he had never stepped foot. 

    The Moi regime used his ancestral roots to target him and silence him at a time when he was known as a fierce critic of the second President's excesses. 

    On the other hand, Najib Balala has another relative, Ahmed Balala, who is the executive director of a Tour and Travel Organisation in Saudi Arabia. 

    Aside from the corporate world, Ahmed prides himself as a tourist activist and a fierce advocate for wildlife and adventure, as seen in his social media profiles. 

    No one knows Najib's next step after the August 9 poll, though if his past political history is anything to go by, it would not be a surprise if he had a trick up his sleeve.

    Tourism CS Najib Balala (left) alongside his relative, Ahmed Balala, during a tour of Saudi Arabia.
    Tourism CS Najib Balala (left) alongside his relative, Ahmed Balala, during a tour of Saudi Arabia.
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