MRC’s threat escalates as it recruits children

By Linah Benyawa and Joseph Masha

Mombasa Republican Council’s threat to security is getting more unsettling especially after it emerged it is recruiting children just like other infamous rebel movements.

The Standard gained exclusive access to identity cards issued to the young MRC recruits, whose rallying call is Pwani Si Kenya (Coast isn’t in Kenya), on enlistment with the outlawed group protesting at historical injustices such as post-independence land-grabbing. 

The cards bearing recruits’ photographs and a court of arms of two crossed-swords were seized from newly inducted members found taking oath early yesterday at Walea in Kaloleni constituency.

They are under police detention and their arrest provides the most conclusive evidence of membership to MRC and also proves the group has spread beyond its Digo heartland in Kwale in spite of

Government threat. Police say the MRC’s high command is now trying to recruit and train members in dense cultural forests in Kilifi, Kwale, and Malindi.

From the names and places of origin it is possible to determine that the MRC members arrested come from Samburu, Miritini, Bamba, Bombolulu, Mikindani, and Bamburi areas of Mombasa, Kilifi, and Kwale counties.

The documents are issued after recruits, who increasingly now include primary and high school children, discard Kenyan national identity cards on the promise MRC will soon achieve the secession of the Coastal strip from Kenya.

That emerged as Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission reported new security threats and resistance to voter registration and education in Matuga, Kisauni, and Kilifi.

In Nairobi, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) urged the Government to engage the MRC in dialogue for the sake of peaceful elections. NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunja warned MRC was rapidly growing and its demand for secession was resonating well with many indigenous people of the Coast. (See seperate story on page 12)

MRC claims to address political and economic discrimination against people of coastal province.

Buying ID cards

But the movement started demanding secession of the province from the rest of the country under their rallying call, triggering anxiety in Government.

Recently, members of the group disrupted mock voting organised by IEBC, disarmed a police officer, and disappeared with a firearm.

In Mombasa a leading Muslim cleric Juma Ngao who leads the Kenya Muslim Advisory Council joined the growing ranks of local opposition to the separatist group, accusing it of trying to force its will on local people.  A State Counsel Emmanuel Bitta accused MRC of plotting to ‘cleanse’ coastal of non-indigenous citizens and participating in the 2007 post-election violence. He warned against lifting the ban against MRC.

Reports from Kilifi indicated police returning from a patrol at around 6.30am arrested eight suspects, and the cards were found on them. They were also caught with some form of charms linked to oathing.

The suspects included a boy, 14, captured as he tried to get into the meeting. On Sunday two pupils in primary and secondary school were arrested after spraying MRC’s separatist slogan Pwani Si Kenya on a church in Malindi. Ngao warned poverty was pushing the youth to join the outlawed movement. The identity cards recovered included photographs, serial numbers and other data issued after new members discarded Kenyan IDs.

Kilifi DC Fredrick Ayieko said police officers received intelligence reports from the public that some members of the outlawed group were meeting in that area.

“The eight suspects were nabbed by officers who were on patrol today at 6.30am. They looked suspicious. Upon arrest, officers recovered the ID cards, membership registration receipts, and some paraphernalia believed to be used for witchcraft,” Ayieko said.

He said that the group was threatening the public by inciting them not to vote, adding upon interrogation, the suspects admitted they were members of the outlawed group.

“We have also received some intelligence report that members of MRC were trying to train and recruit members at Kaya Jibana in Kaloleni,” he added.

Ayieko said MRC has many members in Kaloleni because of the numerous Kayas (forests), which they use for training.  He reminded journalists that last year two suspects were arrested at Kaya Fungo.

The official said some of the recruits arrested had come from Mushomoroni and Kisauni. He said they would be charged in court.

“It appears they had come to Kaloleni for a special mission concerning MRC,” said Ayeko.

Separately in Mombasa, regional co-ordinator for IEBC Amina Soud announced MRC was a growing security threat to its programmes in several areas of the province. She added her staff now require armed police escort to move around.

She told a Media Council of Kenya forum MRC has won fanatical support in areas like Shika Adabu in Matuga, Mlaleo in Kisauni, and Chonyi areas of Kilifi, where they resist voter education and registration.

Amina said poverty and illiteracy are the driving force behind the MRC’s success in these parts. She added she recently required the escort of six Land Rovers packed with armed General Service Unit officers to venture into the interior of the province.

“All my life I have never had bodyguards, but I now have one,” she said, referring to MRC threat to disrupt voting.

“It has forced us to have extra security to improve confidence (of IEBC] officers,” she said, adding MRC has spies everywhere.

But she declared IEBC would not withdraw from the region and would embark on a special kind of civic education to counter MRC propaganda.