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January 22, 2018

Secession talk divides country

Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai. / FILE
Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai. / FILE

A secessionist narrative to split Kenya into Jubilee- and NASA-controlled regions is sweeping the country as the Opposition talks tough that mass action is on the cards.

A petition, its promoters undisclosed, is already being signed online. The intention is to table it for consideration in the African Union's judicial arm, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

It's not the first time separatism has surfaced. But it appears to be the first time the debate is gaining countrywide since the government completely neutralised agitation by the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council in 2012.

The MRC has been advocating for secession of the Coastal strip, citing neglect and economic marginalisation.

The petition, started on Tuesday and targetting more than over 15 million endorsements, by yesterday had been signed by almost 11,000 people.

The petition cites what it terms a culture of rigged elections, economic marginalisation and extrajudicial killings as major reasons for the separatist call. In law this is known as self-determination.

“Kenya has consistently been ruled by only two communities, yet Kenya is a country of about 44 tribes. This has seen rampant discrimination against other communities in basic human rights including distribution of national resources,” the petition says.

“Successive Kenyan Governments have perpetuated a culture of impunity through rigged elections denying Kenyans from other tribes the ability to self-determine and even grow economically," it says. "In the wake of a rigged 2017 election and subsequent killings and ethnic cleansing, it is time we charted our own course as a people who believe in change."

NASA, which has bitterly contested President Uhuru Kenyatta's reelection victory, has remained silent on the secessionist calls.

When Things Fall Apart

However, ODM chairman John Mbadi, a key ally of Opposition chief Raila Odinga told the Star if the culture of impunity and electoral theft cannot be eliminated, “the best thing is to disengage”.

“There is a section in this country that believes leadership is theirs by right. They would have it at whatever cost. They don't respect the value of the vote and at the same time, when they get to power, they exclude others," Mbadi said

“That exclusivity demonstrates lack of commonly shared values. In which case, we need to start thinking whether we stay separately...When you hear people like [Garissa MP-elect Aden] Duale talk of nusu mkate, the question is whose mkate? Everybody wants a slice."

 But Attorney General Githu Muigai warned that Kenya remains a unitary state.

“Read the Constitution, the preamble. It says Kenya is one unified whole republic affirmed by the 2010 Constitution. That is the law. The only levels of autonomy are the counties and the Constitution affirms that, even in its preamble,” Prof Muigai told the Star.

The preamble states that Kenyans are proud of their ethnic, cultural and religious diversity and are determined to live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation.

The regions targeted to form a new state are mostly from the counties won by Raila in the General Election.

These include Western Kenya, Nyanza, Coast and Ukambani.

However, the petition also includes Rift Valley — Turkana, Pokot, Samburu, Maasai, El Molo, Ilchamus, as well as Northern Kenya

In the High Court decision declaring the MRC was not an organised criminal gang, the court ruled secessionism was impossible under Kenyan law.

The court ruled according to Constitution Article 5, more territory can be added or included to what currently comprises Kenya. However, that Article does not suggest Kenya can lose or cede any part of its territory.

But the petition is open-ended and allows entry of other interested communities.

Distinguished scholar David Ndii, outspoken member of NASA's Coordinating Committee, is seen as the face of the secessionist call.

However, Ndii told NTV on Tuesday he was only provoking debate.

“Politics of separatism are fairly normal…There was the Scottish referendum and then Brexit. There is a [19th century] French Philosopher Ernest Renan who characterised nations as a daily plebiscite. The point he was making is that the constituent parts of a nation are in a willful union. That they are free to leave,” Ndii said.

He went on, “I think it's quite clear that if change will not come through the ballot, it will come through the bullet some day. So we should not go into denial that we cannot fight...In a society where legitimate political dissents are closed, [it] inevitably ends up with people taking up arms. People do not accept subjugation forever. Even slaves used to have uprisings.”

Yesterday, a section of religious leaders warned against secession, calling onnational leaders to find ways of solving differences without dividing the country.

The leaders under Evangelical Alliance of Kenya likened the calls for self determination to “divorcing over a cup of tea”.

“We have one country given by God. We need to resolve our problems and live in unity. We plead with Kenyans to leave with unity,” EAK vice chairman David Oginde said.

Human rights activist Cyprian Nyamwamu yesterday told the Star the problem in Kenya includes impunity and lack of accountability, which cannot be treated by secession alone.

“Institutional capture of the State by a tiny elite, impunity and criminal behaviour and plunder by those who capture the state, inequality and injustice are among our problems...But let's not start from the fruits of the tree, let's start with root causes of intolerance and xenophobic discrimination,” Nyamwamu said.

Raila has signaled a protracted battle, regardless ofthe Supreme Court verdict, saying the opposition will “resist and disobey illegitimate computer-generated leaders.”

The thinly veiled threat was given more credence by Ndii who declared NASA is prepared for mass action.

“We have been calling for mass action since 1991 and we will not stop as long as people try to restore dictatorship,” he stated on Tuesday.

On March 26, 2016, Ndii wrote in the Daily Nation, "When people find they cannot live together they part company. Kenya is for the most part an abusive relationship. It is about time we start talking about ending it. This ought not be a difficult conversation."

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