Kenya faces an existential threat.
But as we slide into what promises to be an abyss, we have heard from everyone, apart from those not lucky enough to draw the attention of the media. We have sat huddled in living rooms listening to copious numbers of politicians, lawyers, political analysts, activists, the clergy, members of civil society and different groups within the elite classes. No one has listened to Wanjiku’s fear for her life, her children, and her property as well her dreams.
Although everything is being said and done on behalf of “we the people”, it is evident that what scares ‘Wanjiku’ stiff is the least of the considerations by nearly everyone who has had their say. Instead, ‘Wanjiku’ has silently watched as lawyers make sophisticated legal arguments on why certain decisions ought to be made to satisfy their clients’ desires. Politicians have frothed from both sides of their mouths as they castigate and insult those who do not agree with them. Members of civil society have quoted the Constitution, other branches of the law and international ‘best practice’ ad nauseum as they try to convince Wanjiku that those in power are monsters reincarnated.
And now, into Wanjiku’s mind has been planted a new narrative: This is the publicly-expressed desire for secession, which started with the Mombasa Republican Council and was given a seemingly intellectual input by Dr David Ndii. It has since received backing from members of the mainstream political class headed by Hassan Joho and Amos Kingi, the Mombasa and Kilifi governors, respectively. Some members of the NASA fraternity — that has since morphed into the National Resistance Movement — have given this push additional political backing.
Although many people in Kenya seem to have an axe to grind with the political establishment and its kingpins since Independence, it is true that some sections of this country have suffered immensely from evident marginalization. Indeed, right from the time the first independent government took power, all the way to the Uhuru Kenyatta regime, certain sections of this country have been given a raw deal. But even in the regions regarded as better off; there are millions of people who might be experiencing worse forms of deprivation than their counterparts in the so-called marginalized areas. For instance, the kind of destitution, especially among a big number of youths in the counties that previously constituted Central Province, is out of this world. Here are young people who have lost all hope and who have resorted to severe alcoholism, and who yet to benefit from what is considered the most favoured region in the country.
This is beside the point. The biggest national security threat we face today emanates from the budding secessionist movement. For obvious reasons, those calling for separation are out to create fear and despondency among members of certain ethic groups in this country. They also seem to be making believable arguments that can be embraced if one does not do some reality check. We are being told about charters and declarations that recognise the rights of the people to self-determination. And, of course, the ‘learned friends’ are voicing what can be considered, on the surface, as reasonable arguments for self-determination.
For a long time, politicians and members of the elite classes have never been given reasons to be afraid. More often than not, it is Wanjiku who keeps worrying about her security, where to get food, clothing, medical attention, school fees, etc. But if we are dumb enough to agree with the budding separatist movement, the very process of secession is bound to make politicians and other elites more worried than Wanjiku has ever been. Should the last strand of the cord that keeps Kenya together break, no one can be sure of the outcome.
On Wednesday evening, I sat listening to one MP, Peter Kaluma, talking about how secession in Kenya will be different from the long years of extreme violence that gave rise to the Republic of South Sudan. He said that our Constitution is equipped enough to make our separation very smooth. But I’d like to inform him that releasing the secession genie is bound to bring out the worst of anger caged so far by the prevailing order. And many Kenyans are now well equipped to express such anger in ways that one does not want to think about. For instance, according to the Small Arms Survey done in 2012, between 530,000 and 680,000 firearms are believed to be in the wrong hands nationally. And with the porous borders like the ones we have, getting more arms — especially when the centre can no longer hold- would be as easy as buying mineral water.
Politicians and other elites need to be reminded that the security they now enjoy is only guaranteed by the State because it has the monopoly of violence. This situation would be 100% different for themselves, their families and property if the State can no longer guarantee this security. And if they are so foolish as to continue along this ruinous path, the worst members of the ‘Wanjiku’ class will give them a reason to be scared. But they seem hell-bent on asking for it!
THE JACKALS ARE WATCHING
We also need to consider that Kenya is a slice of the planet’s real estate that is the object of international envy.
It is one of the very few countries on earth endowed with the entire world’s different climate systems; from temperate clime to tropical desert and all the conditions in-between. The country is relatively vast, with over 58 million hectares, out of which slightly over five million hectares have been put into cultivation. From this land springs out an elaborate network of surface and groundwater systems; mineral resources and a biological diversity unsurpassed by many other countries of the world. This is why many members of the foreign diplomatic corps, UN personnel and other Westerners working for international research bodies hardly want to go back to their home countries after their tour of duty comes to an end. In a situation where the centre can no longer hold, the jackals will be watching.
In adherence with what Noam Chomsky terms “military humanism”, different forces will obviously be deployed here, ostensibly to return peace and order. But as is evident elsewhere, this would most likely lead to a prolonged conflict so that merciless foreign entities can keep harvesting much of what is in the country without paying a dime.
This is not an idle thought; it is a reality experienced by many other countries suffering from real war.
The possible outcomes of secession might be too horrible to contemplate. Our best bet is to settle our problems jointly –as a unitary state. Of course, many of those enjoying the largess created through historical injustices have always been against their complete resolution. But the time has come for them to realize that maintaining the status quo is no longer tenable. I believe that the monumental crises we are experiencing today have created the right conditions for a complete redress of the injustices.
Gatu wa Mbaria is a freelance journalist and co-author of The Big Conservation Lie