Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki addressed the nation yesterday, promising “a smooth transition” after the March 2013 presidential elections, in which Kibaki will not compete. Kibaki also spoke out yesterday against the secessionist group the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), saying, “The Coast region has been part of, is part of and will remain part of the Republic of Kenya.” Earlier in the day, the MRC had staged a protest in Mombasa, during which a protester died in a clash with police. The MRC (founded 1996) is currently outlawed, but members have gone to court to challenge that ruling.
The MRC has undertaken a number of protest actions recently. Top Kenyan leaders say they will not engage in dialogue with the group.
The illegal group has also threatened to evict people from other communities who live and work in the Coast unless their secession demands are met.
They have also threatened to boycott the next General Election and have increasingly intimidated coastal residents.
Recently, the group disrupted mock elections in Malindi conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, injured its officials and security agents.
On Monday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga told the illegal group that it must denounce its separatist claims before the government can engage it in dialogue.
Kenyan MPs are reportedly “divided” on the issue of the MRC, with some favoring Kibaki’s stance and others urging dialogue with the group.
A Facebook page on the MRC details their position:
The MRC says the coastal strip is not in need of any protection by the Kenya Government that was inherited from Colonial Britain. It says that it has in place a structured system, complete with a constitution, so it is ready to govern. The MRC officials also add that it is funded by top businessmen and politicians in the region (Mombasa).
The MRC is adamantly pushing for the partitioning of Kenya’s territory, raising issues of marginalization, discrimination and neglect of the coast people. The MRC says it does not support the use of violence. The officials add that the members should not be considered rebels as they are only fighting for what they perceive to be their country – Mombasa. The MRC also say that theirs is an inter religious affair, because it affected all coast people, an assertion that was proven recently when the Pwani Church released a statement in support of what the MRC was doing.
The MRC states that despite the coast being a major contributor to the national economy (through the Port of Mombasa and Tourism in general), the coast people are yet to benefit from its resources and so they are under developed as a result.
For more information on the MRC and the historical background of coastal secessionism in Kenya, see Think Africa Press.