MRC: We want co-existence
24 April 2013, 19:06
Mombasa - The Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) has demanded talks with government as a precursor to cessation of hostilities.
The group, believed to have some Arab countries’ backing, however, says it wants a pacific settlement of the dispute and co-existence with Kenya.
The group is now demanding “positive engagement” with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, saying past regimes had resorted to intimidation and mass arrest of its members to thwart its push for secession.
“All that we want is meaningful dialogue with the authorities. Our members are a peace-loving group and not criminals as claimed,” MRC Organising Secretary Randu Nzai says.
In an exclusive interview with CAJ News, Nzai says MRC's mission is to fight for a just society in which historical injustices on land and other resources are fully addressed.
The group was formed in the 1990s but became visible in 2005 when it started meeting communities to agitate for secession of Coast Province from the rest of Kenya, citing repression.
Nzai says their clamour to secede is in order, adding they have so far written to Queen Elizabeth of England to express their grievances.
The group apparently wants to establish an Islamist state in the Coast Province, sources added.
“Pwani si Kenya (Coast is not part of Kenya),” Nzai said in Swahili, adding an agreement signed by British colonialists and Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta had placed the coastal strip under Zanzibar.
But outgoing Internal Security Minister Katoo Ole Metito has in the past ruled out dialogue with the group. He reiterated: “We will no longer condone criminal activities of MRC or any other illegal grouping for that matter.”
Coast Provincial Commissioner Samuel Kilele said some witchdoctors have been coercing local youth to activities of the group.
“We will deal with them,” he says.
There have also been claims former members of the Kenya Armed Forces are providing military training and aiding operations of the group.
Quoting latest findings of the Kenya National Security Intelligence Services (NSIS), local government officials say some retired military officers are taking “leading roles” in the training of the members of MRC, a claim they deny.
County Commissioner Erustus Ekidor raised the red flag on the military link against the background of growing attacks on government installations and killings of security officers by suspected separatists linked to the MRC.
The group’s spokesman Mohamed Rashid Mraja said: “We have been marginalised since independence. We will keep on seeking self-determination.”
Some Kenyan lawyers say ignoring the MRC is tantamount to living in denial.
“Give them an audience and hear what they have to say then judge them on that basis,” says lawyer Betty Otieno.
But another lawyer Omondi Mboya differed: “Sitting down to dialogue with MRC is in other words acknowledging their existence and giving credence to their demands. No government of the day should engage such groups. There are structured ways of addressing grievances.”
It remains to be seen how Kenyatta’s government will handle the land and tribal grievances of MRC as well as other proscribed groups such as the Mungiki in Central Province of Kenya and parts of Nairobi.
At his inauguration, Kenyatta said security would be top on his agenda. "Kenya will no longer be a safe haven to criminal gangs," the President warned.
- CAJ News