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Address sentiments leading to talk of northeastern secession

Wednesday June 19 2019

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The formation of a new political party, whose raison d'etre is to lead and attain secession for the former Northern Frontier District, is cause for alarm. In the past, attempts to see the region break away from the rest of the country have led to a sanguinary confrontation, the Shifta War of the 1960s.


Reports say that exponents of the idea to secede cite decades of marginalisation by successive national governments as justification for their cause. The truth is that many more parts of the country have only come to know and feel the benefits of power thanks to devolution.

It's also reported that strong external influence is behind the push for independence of the region. And officials of the new party, which has yet to be registered, are said to be consulting and mobilizing both locally and internationally.

Now, the government in Nairobi must approach this latest development with sobriety. When the interests of members in a society are different, everything else important is; from their actions and words to plans and effort. That's how disconnect and abyss become a pressure point for friction. In Australia, because of a sentimental dichotomy, they have different names for a holiday marking the founding of the nation. It's called the "Australian Day" by the settlers and, pejoratively, the "Invasion Day" by the Native community. Perhaps in a move to right a historical wrong, the government of Prime Minister Tony Morrison appointed the country's first Aboriginal member of the cabinet a few weeks ago. And in America, the civil war fought between the years 1861 and 1865, over a period of 1,396 days, and that claimed the lives of 623, 000 soldiers, was caused by the abyss in opinion around the single biggest question of the time- that of whether to institutionalise or abrogate slavery.

About 15 states that entrenched slavery, mainly in the south, sought to secede from the rest of America. However, towards the end of the war, President Abraham Lincoln sent envoys to meet delegations representing Jefferson Davis, the Richmond-based leader of the Confederacy, as the southern states' union was known. Eventually, he, Lincoln, would both defeat slavery and preserve the union of the United States of America.


It's worth mentioning that the story of the turmoil in America then was not without its own tale of external influence. Britain supported the Confederates' secessionist cause and the fixity of Blacks' thraldom in the South for the sustenance and growth of its cotton-dependent industry in Leeds and Manchester.

Let Nairobi first recognise and appreciate that feelings of marginalisation in North Eastern and elsewhere in the republic are legitimate, then explore ways of redress including, but not limited to, the augmentation of devolution as the equaliser that Kenya, as a complex of diverse groups, badly needs. Nelson Mandela was honour incarnate because he sought to build, lead and bequeath a society where no groups dominated others. He understood that societies that institutionalise injustice and countenance some groups dominating others mortgage their very founding aspiration of being and remaining united and peaceful.

And as such, South Africa under him was not only an object lesson in race and communal relations but also a testament to the possibility of man-made peace.

We need to have a candid national conversation that's an exploration into how and why culture-based derogation came to be our interacted orthodoxy with a view to making justice the benchmark of our peace. Earl Warren, who was Chief Justice of the United States in the 1960s, summed up the climactic environment in which sections of society feel alienated, neglected and kept down under thus: "Injustice alone can shake down the pillars of the skies and restore the reign of chaos and night."

Mulang'o Baraza, votary of global peace, historian and author, Nairobi.