The Star (Kenya) - - Voices -

Like other young peo­ple across the world, Kenyan youths leave their slow and small vil­lages or fast and over­crowded towns to search for work in other parts of the coun­try. And they lit­er­ally go ev­ery­where — to the most re­mote town­ship of Lamu, to wheat farms in Narok and, even, to the fur­thest county of Man­dera. They teach, trade and do any other job that will earn them a liv­ing. They are, af­ter all, in their coun­try. They don’t need a pass­port to get there and are en­ti­tled to pro­tec­tion and free­dom as pro­vided by the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Last week, how­ever, 12 of these youths were killed as they slept. Their ho­tel was blown up by im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices and rid­dled with bul­lets.

But there are some things that don’t add up about this Man­dera story. In the news, we are told the lo­cal se­cu­rity agen­cies had been tipped off about the im­pend­ing at­tack. They did noth­ing to fore­stall it. Their re­sponse came af­ter the at­tack. And an­other thing: The top county lead­er­ship had just left the town and only held press con­fer­ences af­ter the dam­age was done — to say how hor­ri­fied and sad­dened they were upon hear­ing the news.

We are talk­ing of Man­dera, a county with a tu­mul­tuous his­tory of at­tacks, not an idyl­lic ham­let some­where in a peace­ful corner of the earth. This is Man­dera, where on Oc­to­ber 6, six peo­ple were killed in yet an­other at­tack. A few months ago, six other peo­ple were shot and killed in a bus ambush. In 2015, 28 peo­ple died in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances. So why is the county lead­er­ship shocked and help­less? Why was there no im­me­di­ate se­cu­rity re­sponse?

Three sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions come to mind. Are Man­dera at­tacks be­ing dis­guised as acts of ter­ror­ism? If yes, why, and even more im­por­tantly, who ben­e­fits?

The first ques­tion is the eas­i­est to an­swer. There is an ele­phant in the room that was ac­tively ig­nored in the press con­fer­ences af­ter the at­tacks. The fact that ‘non-na­tives’ are be­ing ex­pelled from Man­dera could point to a re­vival of se­ces­sion­ist in­ten­tions. And that, in my view, is the scheme that is be­ing dis­guised as acts of ter­ror.

This con­ve­nient con­ceal­ment takes ad­van­tage of the coun­try’s grow­ing im­mu­nity to ter­ror-re­lated shock. We have grown so im­mune that even a young man from Western Kenya, who had him­self lived in Man­dera for seven months, was not scared away by the Oc­to­ber 6 at­tack. He had as­sured his mother, who was beg­ging him to re­turn home, that he was safe. Un­for­tu­nately, he wasn’t. He was last week killed in the at­tack as he slept in his room at Bishaaro Ho­tel and Lodge. All man­ner of biz­zare at­tacks can hap­pen and it is chalked up to Is­lamic ex­trem­ism. But what hap­pens, in the mean­time, is a de­lib­er­ate ex­pul­sion of other Kenyans from the north­ern fron­tier. This ter­ror­ism ap­proach of ex­pelling non-lo­cals has re­placed the out­right pre-and post-In­de­pen­dence se­ces­sion­ist calls in the re­gion. More re­cently, in 2013, there was a reemer­gence, when a band of mili­tia ma­rauded its way around Man­dera ex­tract­ing peo­ple from their homes and killing them. They bla­tantly called for se­ces­sion — their in­ten­tion was for a sov­er­eign Man­dera, com­plete with a flag, map and a na­tional an­them.

Onto the more dif­fi­cult ques­tion: Who ben­e­fits from this scheme? The an­swer could lie in the present lead­er­ship struc­ture — from the county ad­min­is­tra­tion to the coun­cil of el­ders. An in­de­pen­dent Man­dera will bring forth a new sov­er­eign re­gion. A King of the North will have fur­ther im­pe­ri­al­is­tic in­ten­tions to an­nex Moyale, Isi­olo, Wa­jir, and who knows where else.

The last thing we need, in this al­ready eth­ni­cally frag­mented coun­try, is the for­ma­tion of sul­tanates. To those habour­ing these fan­tasies, your dreams are not valid.


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