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Kenya separatists drop radical stance, take part on voter registration

03 March 2016, 23:27

Mombasa - Kenya's separatist group, the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC), on Tuesday dropped their early stance of opposing the ongoing voter registration and subsequent 2017 general election.

The MRC which has been carrying out terror activities in the coastal region has instead urged Kenyans to register as voters and to actively participate in the election.

MRC spokesman Rashid Mraja said they have abandoned their early position of boycotting the election.

"We have decided to drop our hard-line position and urge our followers not to boycott the general election, since some of our grievances have been addressed by county governments," Mraja said in the coastal city.

The Kenyan police have been accusing the MRC, an increasingly violent Islamic group, of working in cahoots with Al-Shabaab to carry out the gruesome attack in the coastal region.

MRC is also charging that the coastal people's rights to land and property ownership has been violated.

Also read: JKIA security hits all time high in wake of Shabaab terror fears

But the MRC's key agenda remains largely unclear beyond the call for the separation of Mombasa and the coastal region from the rest of Kenya.

The coastal region has witnessed several attacks and cases of insecurity with the local political networks being put on blame despite claims of responsibility by Al-Shabaab militants from Somalia.

Mraja appealed to mainly youth to register as voters and quit criminal activities associated with the group. The officials refuted claims that they have been compromised by the State.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) and police had warned that the outlawed MRC is planning to disrupt the nationwide voter registration on the Coast that kicked off last week.

In March 2013, at least 18 people, including 10 security officers, were killed in the coastal region just before voting of general election.

The suspected MRC militants also attacked polling stations and left several police officers seriously wounded.

Regional police commander Francis Wanjohi welcomed the move and urged more officials to completely denounce the group.

"It's a great move in restoring peace in the coast, the group always remains a threat to the peace and stability of the region that had in the past witnessed killings allegedly linked to the group," Wanjohi said.

MRC's grievances are mostly about marginalization and land rights are shared by many on the coast.

On 2010, the government declared the MRC, together with 32 other organizations, illegal on grounds that they were not properly registered and were bent on engaging in criminal activities

Security agencies say the MRC could be receiving funding from Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab to carry terror attacks in the region including the killing of more than 60 people in Lamu in 2014.

The group's activities were meant to instill fear among voters not to participate in the general election, but tension remained high in the coastal region with fears of possible revenge attack.

But the MRC members said they joined the group because of frustration caused by unemployment after the collapse of industries in the coastal region.

The security team believes that the recent spate of attacks in the region is being perpetrated by the MRC's military wing, which mainly consists of youths, most of whom are "tired" of what they consider historical injustices.

- Xinhua

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