• The squatter problem is an eyesore. Interestingly, the land issue is not even prioritiSed in the BBI process. Is this an ill motive?
• Exclusion from national political and economic participation and representation is the other issue afflicting native coastal communities.
This weekend, the BBI crusade moves to the Coast in the third leg of a series of mass rallies to popularise the initiative.
Given that the Coast is predominantly an ODM stronghold, the rally in Mombasa, which is set to be attended by Raila Odinga, promises to be a political bombshell. We should expect the bashing of Deputy President William Ruto to continue, as it did in the two previous BBI rallies in Kisii and Kakamega counties.
To give the Saturday event a political angle, Raila was in Mombasa this week to consult with, among others, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi — the two unapologetic supporters of Raila and the ODM party in this region.
In the meantime, Joho’s office sent out invitations to leaders across the Coast for consultations to draw up a common agenda for the rally. Given the supremacy of ODM in this region, that agenda should certainly reflect Raila’s political thought, given that most of the invitees shall be drawn from the party’s rank and file.
Because of the absence of a substantive unifying leader for the Coast, Raila is the presumed leader. This means that whatever he has to say at the Mombasa rally, the Coast shall follow.
However, despite Raila’s conspicuous influence in Coast politics, the Mombasa rally provides a unique opportunity for the region to prove its itself and to chart its own political course, especially about the 2022 General Election and after.
It should also be an opportunity for our leaders to prove that the region also matters in the management of national affairs. But this can only happen if they eschew partisan politics.
LAND AND EXCLUSIVITY
The issues facing coastal communities are many and varied. This article addresses two of these issues —landlessness and exclusion from mainstream national political and economic processes.
Land is what defines human personality and dignity. A person without land can be likened to a tree without roots, it cannot stand. Yet, like such as a tree, the native in this region have no roots in the form of land and can thus not stand.
Before and after independence, the natives here have been denied this treasure. This is unlike other regions, such as Central and the Rift Valley, where post-Independence governments acted swiftly to amend racist colonial land laws to pave way for natives to own land. In this, the Coast has been left out.
The squatter problem is an eyesore. This problem has been compounded by the fact that even the issuance of title deeds to land that has already been surveyed and allocated to individuals remains a problem. Archaic and racist colonial land statutes that ought to have been discarded decades back are still in place, denying the natives the personality and dignity they deserve.
Interestingly, the land issue is not even prioritized in the BBI process. Is this an ill motive?
Exclusion from national political and economic participation and representation is the other issue afflicting native coastal communities. Yes, the handshake has brought latent peace but the Coast remains excluded from government opportunities. Key decision-making positions within government and institutions, including in Kenya's foreign service, have eluded this region’s native.
For example, the Mijikenda, the most populous ethnic group in the Coast, are not represented in the Cabinet, consequently denying representation to over three million people in the national body politic.
The exclusion of the Coast from mainstream politics and government does not end there. For example, unlike other regions where troubled farmers and industries such as coffee, tea, miraa and sugar have attracted the government's attention, similar calls to help revive collapsed industries in the Coast such as the cashew nut factory in Kilifi and the Mariakani milk processing plant have fallen on deaf ears. There is much more that afflicts the native.
Yet, as the BBI proponents converge in Mombasa this Saturday, I guess that the priority issue is likely to be the executive structure of the government, that is the positions of a prime minister and deputies. Sadly, this not the priority of the coastal communities. Presidential and parliamentary systems have been tested in this country and the Coast agenda has never been addressed.
Irrespective of political affiliations, let the Saturday rally proclaim that coastal communities want the land issue resolved once and for all. They want representation at the national body politic; they want to serve in high-profile government positions; and they want an enduring process of inclusivity in the running and management of state affairs.
If these pressing issues are not addressed adequately, the BBI project should be rejected, whether through a referendum or legislation. The region can’t wait anymore.