More MRC type groups will emerge unless government learns its lessons
Posted Friday, June 1 2012 at 20:00
The Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) has been in the headlines for months now, with its demands for secession on the basis of marginalisation and neglect by central government.
And as usual, the Kibaki regime has responded in its customary kneejerk way of turning a political problem into a security issue, to be handled by force and intimidation, including banning MRC despite its consistent support for non-violence.
Well that has not worked, as anyone with half a brain would have predicted.
It has made the issue resonate more with people at the Coast, and support for MRC has grown dramatically, gaining in legitimacy and recognition.
The fact that the regime does not agree with MRC’s aims is not reason enough to ban it.
As long as groups are non-violent, it should not matter what they want as long as they seek to achieve their goals in a constitutional and legal way, including challenging the Constitution.
If the criterion for banning groups is that they promote political self-interest, then why have GEMA and KAMATUSA not been banned?
Whatever we may think of MRC, the fact is that it has touched a nerve on the issue of marginalisation and neglect.
For instance, why is it that so few indigenous coastal people have title deeds to their land compared to foreign and upcountry investors?
Why is it that when selecting a board for the Ports, minister Amos Kimunya sees it fit to have majority of them from one community?
And then to add salt to the wound, insist that the appointments are based on merit, as though only one community is born with merit?
These are the issues the regime should be spending its time rectifying, not acting tough.
This same narrative of isolation and marginalisation runs deep in many parts of Kenya. And we would best not dismiss them out of hand.
So when people in Kisii question the rationale of building a six-lane superhighway between Nairobi and Thika while roads in Kisii and between Kisii and Kisumu are now craters rivalling those on the moon, wreaking havoc on vehicles and increasing costs of doing business, we should take that seriously.
When people in Samburu, Turkana and Isiolo talk of being so marginalised that government will not even send police and the army to protect them — as they do in Kiambu, Kericho, Vihiga or Siaya — preferring to arm the communities so that they handle their security themselves, which then leads to constant conflicts between them, you know there is a problem.
And when they ask for simple watering holes for their animals, and slaughter houses to make them economically sustainable and they are ignored, with resources going instead to a dubious money-guzzling and unaccountable NSIS, for instance, should we be surprised if they, too, ask for secession?
When people in Turkana find that they have only now become visible to the central government after the discovery of oil — from the ethnicity of the new County Commissioner, to increased security for oil companies that has never been provided to the people — what stops them from asking to separate from Kenya?
And just last week, politicians from North Eastern announced that they, too, will seek secession if some in government continue to push for the suspension of census results from their region while census results from other parts of Kenya are maintained.