, MOMBASA, Kenya, Apr 24 – Leaders of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) insist that the group is not an organised criminal organisation but one that is only advocating the rights of coastal people.
Lawyer Steven Kithi who is representing the council in a case where they want the government to recognise them as a legal group, said MRC is not and has never been a criminal group.
Kithi told High Court Judges John Mwera, Mary Kasongo and Francis Tuiyot that the government erred by listing MRC as a criminal gang.
“My Lords, MRC advocates for secession and that does not mean it is an organised group,” Kithi told the attentive court, which was packed to capacity.
“Criminal groups exist for the purpose of getting benefits, which is not the case with MRC. When listing MRC as an outlawed group, the Minister for Internal Security Prof George Saitoti did not state which benefits the MRC wants to gain,” added Kithi.
Kithi further said that MRC was advocating for political change. “The new Constitution allows people to assemble, associate and have a choice of their political party,” said Kithi.
“I am representing thousands of my clients and I pray that this court would ensure their rights are guaranteed,” added Kithi.
“I want the government to engage MRC into a negotiation to come up with a continued and peaceful conclusion into the matter,” said Kithi.
State Counsel Njoroge Mwangi told the court that the government was not ready to engage the group in any negotiations as it was listed as an illegal group by the State.
“We would like to know the nature of the organisation; who are the members, who are the founder members and their mission and vision,” Mwangi told the court.
Judge Mwera directed Mwangi to ensure people attending court cases were not harassed by the police within the court premises.
“Courts are open to all and no one should be restricted from attending court proceedings,” said the judge.
Prior to the commencement of the case, one person died during fracas between the police and members of MRC. The person is said to have died after he was hit by a flying sharp stone, which was aimed at the police officers but fatally hit one of the protestors.
Muslim Human Rights programs Coordinator Yusuf Lule condemned the violence and urged police to stop using excessive force on innocent people.