BY RAILA ODINGFA
a) By Gazette Notice Number 12585 dated October 18, 2010, the Minister of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security declared the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), alongside 32 other groups, to be organized criminal groups under the Prevention of Organized Crimes Act, 2010. (I table a copy of the Gazette Notice).
Section 22 (1) and (2) of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 2010 provides that “Where the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe that a specified group is engaged in any organized criminal activity under section 3 of this Act, he may, by notice, declare that specified group an organized criminal group for the purposes of this Act. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Minister under this section may apply to the High Court for redress within twenty one days from the date of publishing the order.”
On December 2, 2010, the MRC filed Civil Case No. 468/2010 at the High Court in Mombasa seeking a declaration that the banning of the MRC contravenes the Constitution of Kenya which guarantees freedom of assembly and association. The MRC also obtained Court Orders on December 15, 2010 restraining the Government Security Agencies from interfering with its activities until the case is heard and fully determined.
The MRC has also by a notice dated November 26, 2010 addressed to the Government of Kenya, indicated its intention to sue the Government at the International Court of Justice at the Hague to demand secession from Kenya and create its own state.
In view of the pending court proceedings, I will restrain from commenting any further on the legal status of the MRC.
b) Key amongst our National values and principles of governance under Article 10 of the Constitution are: people participation in the affairs of the State; inclusiveness; protection of the marginalized; equity; and social justice. These values and principles make engagement with any segment of the population on matters affecting their interests or those of the Nation as a whole a mandatory Constitutional process. The Government’s official position is therefore to engage with the MRC or any other group in addressing their grievances. Such engagement must, of course, bear full and complete respect to our Constitution and other laws of the land. The groups must first renounce any criminal activities they may have committed before such engagement.
c) The MRC’s list of grievances include perceived marginalization of indigenous Coastal people in employment and business opportunities, loss of land due to irregular and illegal title deeds, selective issuance of title deeds to non-indigenous Coastal people at the Coast to the exclusion of indigenous Coastal people, harassment and arbitrary arrest of its members, and perceived insensitivity by the Government to the genuine grievances of the indigenous Coastal people.
Official statistics tend to buttress some of these grievances. For example, the Integrated Household Budget Survey of 2007 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics ranks the Coastal region below all former provinces except the former North Eastern in terms of rural poverty. The same Survey indicates that urban poverty in Mombasa is higher than the other major Cities in Kenya. Of the top 15 poorest districts in Kenya, four, namely Tana River, Malindi, Kwale and Kilifi are in the Coastal region. Underemployment amongst the youth in the Coastal region is amongst the highest in Kenya. Other statistics show that the Coastal regional has one of the lowest rate of access to title deeds. Education performance within the Coastal region does not fare any better. This disparity in development is the result of the implementation of Sessional Paper No. 10 on African Socialism and its Application to Planning which prioritized development in high potential areas.
Though the MRC describes itself as a social movement and professes not to be a political party, not an NGO and not an armed gang, it has embraced some campaign slogans and tactics that compromise its professed character. The slogan “Pwani Si Kenya” connotes agitation for secession which is a direct violation of Articles 3 and 5 of our Constitution on our territorial integrity and the laid down constitutional process of establishing lawful government in Kenya. The campaign by MRC for Coastal people to boycott both voter registration and voting in elections is a violation of Articles 4 and 10 of our Constitution which establish the Republic of Kenya as a multi-party democratic state founded on our national values and principles amongst them being patriotism, national unity, participation of the people in their governance and practice of democracy. These calls to boycott elections also contravene the principles of the electoral system under Article 81 of our Constitution which require that citizens be free to exercise their political rights in free and fair elections which are free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption.
The targeting of so-called “Watu Wa Bara” or Up Country People through hostile pamphlets and speeches undermine our national cohesion and violate Articles 27, 28, 29 and 40 of our Constitution amongst other relating to equality and freedom from discrimination, human dignity, security of person, protection of right to property and the right to reside freely in any part of Kenya. The Government is alive to the risk that the MRC’s genuine grievances may be hijacked for radicalization by external forces such as Al Shabaab.
The grievances being articulated by the MRC can only be addressed within an atmosphere of peace, stability, rule of law and greater democracy, transparency and accountability in our governance. The New Constitution presents the best framework for addressing these grievances by way of devolution (Article 6 and Chapter Eleven), equitable sharing of national revenues amongst the 47 counties (Article 218), use of equalization funding to provide infrastructure in marginalized areas (Article 204), affording adequate and equal opportunities for employment at all levels of public service for members of all ethnic groups and diverse communities (Article 232) and entrenchment of rights and fundamental freedoms including economic and social rights (Chapter 4).
Other measures that will help address the grievances include the New Land Policy and the Land Bills currently before this House which addresses historical land injustices. The Government has also been revoking illegal and irregular titles at the Coast. There have been initiatives to revive various large scale investments at the Coast such as Kwale International Sugar Company (formerly Ramisi Sugar) and Tiomin Mining. There are plans to establish two special economic zones at the Coast in Lamu and Mombasa. The Government recently inaugurated the new Lamu Port. The establishment of the Ministry of State for Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands is part of the affirmative action for Coastal region.
Moving forward, the Government plans to host a Coastal Consultative Forum sometime in June 2012 to engage with the Coastal people in coming up with interventions to their grievances. To prepare for the Forum, a Task Force, under the coordination of my Office, is to be established shortly to undertake the necessary grassroots consultations and develop position papers on the various areas of concern.
Rt Hon Raila A. Odinga, EGH, MP
Wednesday, March 14, 2012