One of the popular narratives about Kenya’s last General Election is that it was peaceful.
That, of course, is a fallacy.
The notion that 2013 was peaceful only got traction because Kenyans tend to measure election-related violence by the magnitude of tribal clashes in the Rift Valley or the intensity of street riots in the Opposition stronghold of Kisumu.
Folks in Coast region will tell you that it was anything but peaceful.
On the eve of the voting, for instance, a gang attacked police officers on night patrol in Mombasa and hacked them to death.
One of the senior officers, Otieno Awuor, hailed from Kaneya (my mother’s place) where we attended the same primary school.
Mr Awuor’s remains lie in a quiet grave somewhere in Rabuor, a few kilometres from Kisumu town.
Officials said the killers of Mr Awuor and his colleagues were members of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a secessionist group that had been agitating for a boycott of the election in the region under the slogan, Pwani Si Kenya (the Coast isn’t part of Kenya).
A security crackdown and the prosecution of some of its leaders appear to have neutered the MRC or driven it underground.
But to defeat groups like the MRC, which feed on historical grievances to push their sectarian agenda, the State has to ultimately win the battle for hearts and minds in the local community.
Indeed part of the reason the secessionist campaign hasn’t caught on at the Coast is that the mainstream politicians and other elite have shunned it, denying the group the crucial organisational and financial muscle it needs to thrive.
That is why the government’s growing hostility against the three county governors and Members of Parliament allied to them in the region is intriguing.
Three days ago, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi had part of their security guards withdrawn.
Governor Joho also lost his privilege to hold a gun after his arms licence was cancelled, a fate that reportedly befell Mvita MP Abdulswmad Nassir as well.
It pretty much capped a bleak period for the Mombasa governor whose family businesses at the port were recently targeted for closure over allegations of tax evasion.
Supporters of governors Joho and Kingi see their latest tribulations as the State backlash against the duo for their role in the Malindi parliamentary by-election in which the ruling Jubilee coalition candidate lost.
No doubt Jubilee wanted that seat badly going by the heavy investment in the campaigns, including having the President pass by to hand out title deeds at some point.
But soreness over a little election loss shouldn’t make the government miss the bigger picture of the security challenges the country faces.
Weakening the legitimate local leadership at the Coast effectively strengthens the likes of MRC.
[email protected] @otienootieno