When African countries gained their independence from their colonial masters, there was a sigh of relief that there would be no marginalisation of communities. In his speech at the Organisation of African Union, Kwame Nkrumah stated that independence was a gateway to political, social and economic development of Africa. But after independence we see how hard it is for the post colonial governments to respect the rights of their people. It is no wonder many communities are agitating for the right to secede and form autonomous governments. These communities seek the respect of human rights, economic equality, the resolution of longstanding historical injustices, and the protection of their civil and political rights as guaranteed in modern constitutions. In this essay, I highlight the case of the Mombasa Republican Party by tracing its origin, the political drivers including the land question, denial of constitutional guarantees; the violation of human rights and marginalisation by the Kenya government, and the War on Terror.
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Just after independence, there was a movement called 'Mwambao' who were advocating for secession from Kenya . Their call was for political independence Goldsmith (2011). Overtime the MRC became the voice of the people and championed for political independence since Kenya did little in respecting their rights especially land, economic and political rights.
The Mombasa Republican Council claims that the Kenyan government has marginalised the coast province in both the political and economic spheres. Whereas the coast province is known for its sandy beaches, beautiful hotels, national parks and a port that serves not only Kenya but also South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda the people at the Coast complain that the revenue does not benefit them. The infrastructure is poor, the living standards is poor and this has forced the youths in the area to engage in illegal activities such as drug trafficking. They want to have a better say in how they are governed and how rules passed through the parliament will affect them positively thus ensuring political supremacy. That is why they are advocating for more civil and political rights so that their grievances can be solved easily. Studies suggest the majority of large scale farm holders are non-natives (Goldsmith, 2012).
Goldsmith (2012) argues that the land issue is a big problem in the Coast province. In addition, the ruling class and the business elites own huge chunks of land at the expense of the indigenous people. This problem has made the people become squatters in their own land and this problem has existed since the 16th century and as Smith (2010) argues that in the African Charter Article 21 it states that people have the right to recover their property legally and receive full compensation. The problem is that most squatters have not gotten their property back and this alone is a violation of their human right and that is why they want secession. Rigby (2012) argues that the Tiomin Ming Company with the Kenyan government has not done enough in the resettlement of the local people in the Coastal area. Smith (2010) argues that in the United Nations Charter article 1 (2) the right to self determination is enhanced and that is why Czechoslovakians voted in a referendum in 1993 to secede to what is now Czech Republic and Slovakia. He also argues that in the African Charter Article 20 (1) all individuals have the right to self determination especially if they have the freedom to choose their political status and that no external forces can intimidate the individuals in the region. Under the United Nations Security Council mandate it plays an integral part in the decolonisation process. The UNSC must also look at the MRC issue as they seek self determination since in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights it states in Article 1 (1) that peoples have the right to self determination.
There has been a case where foreign companies take huge chunks of land but do not invest much in the area. Nunow (2012) argues that the Tiomin Mining Company has bought huge chunks of land in Kwale and Msambweni but has not involved the local community about their mining decisions and how it is going to help them. Smith (2010) argues that in the African Charter Article 21, people are entitled to enjoy the natural wealth of their country and should not be deprived from it. Ratemo (2012) points out that with the Malindi Municipal Council having leased 40000 ha of land to Jatropha International, this would reduce the land cover for the people leaving in the area and with improved technologies in the area, and most of the people would become unemployed thus increasing the grievances of the Coastal people. Such grievances has enabled the MRC be more vocal in achieving the civil and political rights as they advocate for their rights of not being enslaved by people who do not have their interest at heart.
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What makes the secession talks more interesting is that the Kenyan government failed to honour the 1963 MOU between the Sultan of Zanzibar and Kenya's first President where the Kenyan government would protect the coastal people and as Kisiang'ani (2012) argues that the agreement was supposed to respect the rights of Muslims and empower them economically in the 10 mile coastal strip. By not respecting this treaty, the 'Coasterians' felt cheated and somehow are socially and politically aware of what is happening in Zanzibar. Jorgic (2012) argues that the Zanzibaris want to get political autonomy from the mainland Tanzania because Tanzania has oppressed them just as the Kenyan government has oppressed the coastal people. Kisiang'ani (2012) argues that in the MOU treaty there was a clause which stated that the Coast province would secede from Kenya after 50 years hence their cause being more justified. The MRC argues that Kenya did not follow the agreement to the latter and are surprised that the MRC are followed like bandits.
The Mombasa Republican Council has no legal authority to express their views. Mosotah (2012) argues that the proscribed sect do not have the freedom of association and assembly and this makes them use other means to express their grievances especially violence. The Kenyan government has argues that in the constitution Chapter 7 Article 91 2(C) it states that no political party is allowed to form a paramilitary organisation that will rally against the state. That is why the MRC a political organisation that hasn't been registered has been having a paramilitary wing that is advocating for secession from Kenya. In as much as the secessionist demands are against the constitution of the host country, their demands for secession are genuine and needs to be addressed.
The political leaders in the area have not invested much in the eradication of poverty and the political improvement in the area. The leaders are just involved in endless squabbling thus, this council - Mombasa Republican Council - act as the voice of the people and they assume that the Kenyan government has neglected them completely. Goldsmith (2012) argues that the MRC uses legal means to channel their views and are opposed to armed resistance as what had happened in 1997 during the Kaya-Bombo conflict. The MRC argue that the Kenyan government has banned the movement and in short are infringing on their right of association and the police argue that the MRC are just like Mungiki and that they threaten the coastal people using machetes. Smith (2010) argues that in the African Charter on Human Rights in which Kenya is a member, states that civil and political rights are just as important as the economic rights of the citizens. Through this, when the Kenyan government ignores the economic rights of the Coasterians then they are also ignoring the political rights of them also.
From the Kenya-MRC conflict, we see the division between the ordinary people and the elites. This political and economic conflict can be traced to not only the political leaders at the Coast Province but also the Kenyan government in failing to formulating and implementing economic, political and social policies in the country. As Goldsmith (2012) states that, the finding of the Open Kenya Initiative shows that the Coast province has fifteen poorest counties shows the economic conflict and difficulties that the local people have. Jorgic (2012) argues that it is through poverty that the youths engage in such activities and in the end it may increase terrorist militants in the area in their quest for total independence from Kenya just as Zanzibar has taken a militant route as they want self determination from Tanzania. Through the economic conflict affecting the Coastal people, the people have started using the legal means in achieve their ambitions since it is through economic power that the people can achieve civil and political power.
The governments do not want to listen to their demands because it would undermine their sovereignty and authority. The rights of the people are thus not respected forcing them to use violent means to gain their freedom. The government usually ignores John Mills's idea that the marginalised people should be allowed to express themselves. People should be allowed to express themselves freely if they want to secede or not because this is their right.
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In as much as these secessionist groups advocate for the rights of the marginalised people they still violate the human rights of these people. In the above case, we see that the government has exploited the secessionists in every way and that they are branded as a 'terrorist' organisation that is trying to destroy the social order and as Iteere (2012) points out that the MRC acts as a mafia organisation that want to bring problems in Kenya and as Goldsmith (2011) argues the government press in continuing linking the MRC with other terrorist groups like al shabab shows how hard it will for the government of Kenya to give in, in the demands of the MRC. In Kenya, the MRC has been accused by the Kenyan government for supporting and harbouring terrorist groups and it has been linked with the al shabab. Goldsmith (2011) argues that when the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) went to Somalia to fight the al shabab the MRC started preaching and using a hard line Islamic stand and accused the KDF of fighting Islamic culture. Goldsmith also points out that other than the al shabab the MRC has been linked with the Islamist group Hizb ul Tahrir and the Kenyan government do not want in any way to breed any terrorist cell in the country. Such terrorist groups have caused problems in the coast such as the Kikambala bombings and the civil and political rights of other religious groups would also be affected since they do not practice Islam.
MRC has been associated with the Tana Delta killings which happened in 2012. The MRC argue that they were rallying for civil and political change that would enable determine their political destiny but this was overshadowed when the government accused them of financing the wars in the area. Kantai (2012) argues that about 53 people were killed and their houses burned. Kantai also states that the MRC was also involved in the shooting of the Ministers bodyguard. This in itself shows that the movement has no respect for human life and such a movement need to be dismantled before it affects the whole country. It has been noted that the MRC do not use democracy as means in achieving its civil and political rights. It has been acknowledged that MRC is a paramilitary organisation that has increased violence in the Coast province. If they in one way or another use child soldiers or if children are affected in the process it would contravene the legal norms that the international community has set forth. In the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child it states that in Article 22 (3) that children should be protected when violence occur since children are considered as minors. Kantai (2012) argues that MRC are recruiting individuals who cause violence and have been confronted the Kenya police leading to increased deaths. Thus the Kenyan government is right in dismantling this cell.
In the 2010 referendum, Kenyans (coastal people included) voted for a new constitution. The new constitution was to address the problems that were affecting the country since independence. The coastal people participated freely in the referendum and many voted for the new constitution. Goldsmith (2011) argues that a woman in Kaloleni admitted that the new constitution was vital in addressing the problems that had affected them historically but her being an MRC supporter still viewed secession as the best option in solving their problems. This shows that MRC - in as much as they want to do things legally - still want to do things their own way and they have even played a lesser role in demanding for their issues during the run up to the referendum. This looks like the MRC do not respect the civil and political rights of the coastal people when they voted overwhelmingly for the new constitution and it seems they have a hidden agenda in the secessionist plan.
There has been a report that the MRC has agreed to disrupt the General election that is scheduled for March 2013 because they view themselves as not Kenyans and have come up with the political slogan 'Pwani si Kenya' that is the Coast province is not part of Kenya . Beja (2012) argues that the government has issued warnings to the MRC for trying to threat the locals not to vote. This in itself is unconstitutional and will limit the coastal people in their quest for civil and political leadership in the coast province. In the Kenyan Constitution Chapter 4 Article 38 (3a) every person has a right to participate in the political process of electing a person he/she chooses. The MRC has no right in stopping the coastal people in expressing their views about the political leadership they want to elect. The MRC must know that it is through legal procedures that the problems affecting the coast province can be solved but not through intimidation.
The MRC has been accused as puppets of wealthy individuals who are using the coastal people as a process to gain politically and do not have the interest of the masses behind them. They fear that if the Kenyan government implement the new constitution fully they would lack the political power. Kisiang'ani (2012) points out that the political elites control the affair of the Coastal people. Furthermore, that is why the Kenyan government has denied the MRC the right to association and assembly since it would hinder the civil and political development of the coastal area thus they would not have the right to determine how they are to be governed since they would have given their rights to the wealthy individuals. In the new constitution the devolved governments would ensure that the local people would be able to make decisions that would affect them in their locality thus the problem affecting them would be dealt with easily.
The Kenyan government has accused the MRC of trying to sabotage national examination in the coast province. Mwadime (2012) argues that the government has warned the secessionist group to stop intimidating students to stop doing their examination. In the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Article 11 (1) it states that children education is important and that no one should stop children from gaining their right. This is because it is through education that would help enlighten the coastal people and even have efficient solutions affecting them. Making the MRC case more senseless is that they are denying their children to education and are every time accusing the Kenyan government of ignoring their plight. Political and civil rights can be achieved if the MRC find a better method of solving the crisis in the Coast province rather than making students to stop doing the examination since this would not solve their problems completely.
In conclusion, the MRC must push on for their right to self determination. This is because the Kenyan government has denied them their civil and political right since independence and has not respected the MOU which the sultan of Zanzibar and President Jomo Kenyatta signed. Their move for secession must take diplomatic channels and use the existing International Organs - the EAC, AU and the ICJ - to express their disappointment against the Kenyan government or even fight for semi autonomous power so that the Coast province can be able to deal with the problems affecting them amicably.