Intrigues behind Mandera’s negotiated democracy, and why Governor Roba will have none of it

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By Fuad Abdirahman

In the run up to the 2013 General Election, the Garre clan, who make up the majority of Mandera, hatched a plan that would see them dominate county politics. The plan would also allow them to share positions equally among its sub clans while allowing other clans considered “non hostile” an opportunity to lead – as long as they abided by Garre terms.

The formula was dubbed “negotiated democracy” and would be based on a consensus between the Garre, Degodia, Murale and other smaller Somali clans in the county.

To aid their cause, the Garre conscripted the “Institution of Council of Elders” consisting of the most respected and dignified of its elders. Twenty-one members in total, they represented all the 21 sub clans of the Garre community. It was agreed that they would be the sole decision-makers for the Garre community.

Through their chair, Sultan Alinoor Hajji, they announced that they had reached a consensus on how various post would be shared among the Garre clan.

After the elders of Garre clan achieved consensus, they reached out to the Murale clan with proposals of collaboration. They were successful. The gubernatorial, senate and most of the MCA seats would be filled by the Garre while other slots, including the deputy governor’s position, would be left for the Murale.

Inter-clan hostilities between Garre and the Degodia, which had claimed scores of lives, meant that the later, inhabiting Wajir, but with an appreciable presence in Mandera, were left out of the negotiating table.

The negotiated democracy was successful. Amongst its beneficiaries were the current governor, a member of the Sabdawa, the largest sub-clan of Garre. The Senator, woman representative as well as quite a number MCAs and MPs won the election with the blessing of the clan’s elders. Unable to challenge the united Garre and Murale clans, the Degodia didn’t win any seats.

Five years later, the Garre nation is in turmoil. The 21 representatives mandated to unite the community and ensure equality are facing defiance from their 2013 election beneficiaries.

On August 8, 2016, the council called a meeting with the aim of finding a solution. The meeting was held in Banissa, Mandera County, and was attended by representatives of the Garre and all elected leaders from the county.

At the meeting, the council passed a telling decree that disappointed most of the elected leaders. In a charter it had unveiled, it determined that power should be held on a rotational basis. This meant almost all of the elected leaders relinquishing their posts this year – a fact most of the leaders were not agreeable to.

This time round, the governor’s seat would go to the Ganna sub-clan, and the rest to those clans than had not benefitted. Those in coalitions were also required to do the same.
“This means all the sub-clans of Garre got something, even if it is as small as MCA’s and they all believe that one day each of them will get big share like governor’s seat,” says Farah, an elder from Mandera county.

Mandera Senator, Billow Adan Kerrow, Woman Representative, Fatiha Mahbub, and the MP of Mandera South, Mohamed Huka, made clear that they would abide by the elders’ wishes. On the other hand Mandera Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba rubbished the elders and vowed to vie again this year.

“We have come out to declare that 21 people cannot decide for a whole community. We want those who gave us the mandate to be in office to be the same people who will decide whether or not we should leave,” declared Governor Roba’s camp.

According to the Governor, the method used to remove them from power was never efficient, and they needed to be evaluated according to their performance and development records.

But some don’t agree. “The Governor was made by these clan elders, he was nothing before this,” says outgoing Senator, Kerrow.

On December 10, 2016, after the declaration, candidates for different elective seats from different sub clan were unveiled at Takaba, Mandera West. As a result, two factions emerged: the Tukkoma, meaning “unity”, and the Dugaa, meaning, “justice”. The Kerrow and the 21 elders, who have massive support, head the Tukkoma faction. They have been championing the exit of the Governor and others who defied the elders.

From the fall-out, its now apparent that the current governor enjoys huge support from the Jubilee administration, and elders are rumored to have their own election vehicle for 2017 in the Economic Freedom Party.

“We elected Jubilee in 2013 but from today we are launching our party and will not afford to be in Jubilee anymore. We have started our own vehicle,” said Senator Kerrow, who insisted that their party is neither affiliated to Jubilee nor the opposition.

The elders would have wanted to have all their candidates to run on a Jubilee ticket but after meeting President Kenyatta, they were forced to form their own party when it became clear whom the head of state supported for governor.

Kerrow has been arrested once for speaking against extrajudicial killing in the country under the Kenyatta administration.

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