This is hardly spo­ken about but the 2010 con­sti­tu­tion en­vis­ages se­ces­sion

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION - Mr Ab­dul­lahi is a com­men­ta­tor on se­cu­rity and gov­er­nance

Kenya’s Au­gust 8 elec­tions took place against the back­drop of pro­lif­er­a­tion and weapon­i­sa­tion of fake news. This rightly an­i­mated all those in­ter­ested in truth and Kenya’s bur­geon­ing democ­racy.

The im­me­di­ate post-election at­mos­phere be­fore the Supreme Court rul­ing on Septem­ber 1 nul­li­fy­ing the pres­i­den­tial vote was dom­i­nated by sharp dis­cus­sions on se­ces­sion, a sub­ject whose sup­port mir­rors po­lit­i­cal in­cli­na­tions: The Na­tional Su­per Al­liance (Nasa) sup­port­ers pre­dom­i­nantly backed se­ces­sion while Ju­bilee Party sup­port­ers were against it.

In Kenya, elec­tions dis­til the dreams, fears and hopes of cit­i­zens. In­creas­ingly, the fear of post-election vi­o­lence casts a dark cloud over the polls, es­pe­cially af­ter 2007/ 2008. This has made election an ex­is­ten­tial en­deav­our where the win­ner takes all.

The heat of the elec­tions also re­veals that Kenya is but a petri dish of na­tions and sub-na­tions, with bare min­i­mum ef­forts to forge a united na­tion. Be­sides, com­pro­mised election out­comes have made the se­ces­sion a tempt­ing op­tion to right elec­toral and other wrongs.

The se­ces­sion de­bate is not new. North East­ern Kenya, dur­ing what was char­ac­terised as the Shifta War (1963–1967), at­tempted to se­cede. Their se­ces­sion was an­chored on the Pan-so­ma­lia dream, but was pre­dom­i­nantly fu­elled by the feel­ing of marginal­i­sa­tion and dis­en­fran­chise­ment.

The re­gion’s sta­tus as an ap­pendage to the Kenyan

State pre­dates in­de­pen­dence: To the Bri­tish, the North’s only value was to act as a buffer against Ital­ians, if not a wildlife-hunt­ing play­ground.

As a colo­nial hang­over, the post-in­de­pen­dent govern­ment con­tin­ued to treat the re­gion the same way, if not worse.

Since then, the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the State and North East­ern Kenya has been me­di­ated through brute force and mu­tual sus­pi­cion.

The “War on Ter­ror” in which eth­nic So­ma­lis were dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­geted is an ex­am­ple. Dur­ing Oper­a­tion Usalama Watch, many So­ma­lis, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, were in­dis­crim­i­nately herded into Nairobi’s Kasarani Sta­dium.

Since the Shifta War, the in­hab­i­tants of the re­gion, largely So­ma­lis, have been treated with deep sus­pi­cion, and their fealty to Kenya is al­ways ques­tioned: They are Kenyans, but terms and con­di­tions ap­ply.

Along Kenya’s coast, a se­ces­sion­ist move­ment, Mom­basa Repub­li­can Coun­cil (MRC), a self-de­clared so­cial move­ment, also wanted the re­gion to se­cede from Kenya. Their rallying call was Pwani Si Kenya (The Coast is not in Kenya). MRC was not a po­lit­i­cal party, a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion, an armed gang, or a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion. It came to promi­nence in 2008, al­though it has ex­isted in some form since early 1999.

While it was hard to as­cer­tain the ex­act ex­tent of their fol­low­ing and sup­port, the his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary griev­ances the group raised res­onate with the ma­jor­ity of the coastal peo­ple, even to­day. Those along the coast, who do not nec­es­sar­ily share their se­ces­sion­ist vi­sion, agree with the griev­ances the group raised.

Land was the pri­mary source of MRC’S dis­con­tent. While his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tice around land is present in al­most ev­ery part of Kenya, at the coast it is uniquely egre­gious. Closely linked to the land is eco­nomic marginal­i­sa­tion of the coastal re­gion, de­spite the re­gion be­ing a lu­cra­tive tourist hub.

While, for most part, the resid­ual Cold War par­a­digm has been the lens through which the two re­gions are viewed, a new model rooted in post-septem­ber 11 ter­ror­ism cen­tred and dis­cov­ery of nat­u­ral re­sources and the large-scale in­fra­struc­ture projects to ac­cess those nat­u­ral re­sources – hy­dro­car­bons and min­er­als – has emerged.

This has changed the State and mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions’ ap­proach to the re­gion. Most of the large-scale Vi­sion 2030 flag­ship projects are lo­cated in the two re­gions.

Dr David Ndii, in a re­cent col­umn in the Satur­day Na­tion said: “Kenya is a cruel mar­riage, it’s time we talk di­vorce”, rais­ing the se­ces­sion is­sue. The econ­o­mist and Nasa strate­gist re­turned to the topic post-election. He re­ceived a vig­or­ous push­back from pro- unity Kenya.

What is hardly spo­ken about is that the 2010 Con­sti­tu­tion en­vis­ages se­ces­sion. How­ever, the pro­ce­dural thresh­old is high; the group want­ing to se­cede should raise one mil­lion sig­na­tures and get the sup­port of at least 24 county assem­blies (Ar­ti­cle 257).

Al­ter­na­tively, the group can ask Par­lia­ment to ini­ti­ate the move (Ar­ti­cle 256). Se­ces­sion must then be sup­ported by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity at a ref­er­en­dum by at least 20 per cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers in each of at least 24 coun­ties (Ar­ti­cle 255(2).

Fun­da­men­tally, se­ces­sion is a symp­tom of a feel­ing of deep struc­tural dis­en­fran­chise­ment. We can­not con­tinue as­sum­ing that all is well as a united coun­try.

Those propos­ing se­ces­sion should ex­hibit re­demp­tive anger — anger that moves one to trans­for­ma­tion and hu­man up­build­ing, and those op­pos­ing it need rad­i­cal em­pa­thy — ac­tively striv­ing to bet­ter un­der­stand and share the feel­ings of oth­ers.

In our deeply po­larised setup, these may sound squishy, but we need it if we want a united Kenya.

AB­DUL­LAHI BORU HALAKHE The pro­ce­dural thresh­old is high; the group want­ing to se­cede should raise one mil­lion sig­na­tures and get the sup­port of at least 24 county assem­blies.”

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