My visit to the Coast this year coincided with two significant political as well as social eventualities – the first was the election of the new Council of Governors leadership at Diani Reef Hotel in Kwale County, and the second the recent people’s assembly events of governors Ali Hassan Joho of Mombasa County and Amason Kingi of Kilifi. The two held a conference at Kilifi where they discussed Swearing in of Raila Odinga and also touched on secession as an ideal solution to the ills of Kenya’s electoral politics. The key visitor was Raila Odinga. Their main idea is for the former Coast province to secede, as well as other parts of Kenya as a reaction to “perennial electoral fraud which has consistently subverted the will of the people.”
Good political judgment in the context of current history of Africa demonstrates that secession as an idea not good for Kenya. That being so, the idea for reforms in our electoral institutions is timely and very good for the health of Kenya as a state and a nation. And this is why Raila Odinga, as a father of political reformation in Kenya, need not to think of secession but instead consider other benevolent and effective tools of attaining that end.
Putting politics at the centre of everything sometimes stifles good judgment. For example, there are other key issues to be addressed apart from the politics of self-determination by the people of the Coast. The first step in this regard is the need to realise that secession is not a panacea to the social and economic problems of the coast region; instead, the leadership of region have duty to initiate realisable development goals for their people.
It is an indisputable fact that rural parts of coastal area are among the poorest areas in Kenya – even poorer than Turkana County. This is a problem compounded by drug use and abuse, teenage pregnancies, economically induced artificial homosexuality, poor housing, lack of adequate, clean drinking water, high rates of primary school dropout, unchecked police brutality, sex tourism, environmental degradation, joblessness and high rates of HIV infections, among others. The cause of all these variants of rural poverty in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale Counties is not the affiliation or the unity of the region to the mainland land Kenya, but rather the local social, cultural and political factors. These are the factors that local political leadership must address.
Hassan Joho and his fellow leaders in the bandwagon of territorial seclusion need to be realistic and figure out what they can do to both secure their legacies and help their people. The dynamics of secession are never easy, as the Biafra situation demonstrates. Their gusto and power would be best employed in the more meaningful exploits of using devolution as a platform on which to initiate social and economic development.
Most urgent is also the need for the leaders from the Coast to deal with urban poverty among their youths. Most of the youths in Mombasa, Kilifi and Malindi don’t have high school education, and almost ninety nine percent of the urban youths don’t have technical education or skills, which explains why they easily fall into drug use. Entrepreneurial focus among the coastal youth is poor; at the same time, they have not yet realised economic opportunities inherent in the use of ICT. Devolved governance was supposed to have reduced these conditions of squalor and economic despair by half, the way it has happened in other devolved regions.
It is true the leadership of Uhuru Kenyatta has committed three brutal political crimes against the people of the Coast; police brutality on the youths through the person of Nelson Marwa, the perceived transfer of the port of Mombasa to the inland port in Naivasha, and the initiation of the idea that the thirty kilometres of land along the coast line will be taken over by the government in Nairobi – the issue of land is always testy. These are wrong and, in them, one could conclude that President Uhuru Kenyatta was over-taken by the sentimental fit of regionalism. However, these are not reasons to balkanise Kenya into micro parcels of political territorialities. Instead, they are reasons enough for the people of Kenya to unite and struggle against the tyranny and cult of dictatorship that often accompanies tribal ideology, which in turn fetters the quality of delivery of political and economic services to certain quarters by a centralised secular democracy like the one Kenya has. ^
Kamala, via e-mail.