How devolution is fuelling North Eastern Province chaos

By Adow Jubat

During the last election campaigns, Northern Frontier districts residents were made to believe banditry, clan rivalry and cut-throat competition for resources will be dealt with by the devolved governments.

Chapter 11 of the Constitution, which talks of a devolved system of governance, was widely discussed in Northern Kenya in the run up to March 4 election to solicit votes.

 Many politicians eyeing presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial and all other elective posts depended heavily on the chapter, quoting its provision as a quick fix to “marginalisation” which was blamed for the underdevelopment in the expansive region.

 They promised, in their campaign manifestos, to ensure full implementation of devolution of resources if they were elected.

Majority of residents in the formers Northern Frontier Districts (Marsabit, Moyale, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Isiolo) were made to believe that they were marginalised by because of unfavorable centralized national decision-making system.

“We blamed successive governments for having used the national government to entrench skewed policy formulations and the don’t-care altitude which never sought their inputs.

 However, the chapter is proving a curse for the residents in the drought prone area, than the anticipated blessing as deadly inter-clan conflicts, which has its genesis in the county politics, creates widespread mayhem.

Deadly clashes have broken out and spread in the region like a wild fire just six months into birth of the devolved system of governments in the country.  Three out of the five counties, that makes up the region have so far been hit by a bloody inter-communal feuding, that has so far claimed lives of hundreds of people.

Clashes have led to the destruction of property worth millions of shillings and the displacement of tens of thousands of families after sharing of the county elective positions reignited rivalry and a contest of numerical supremacy.

A curse?

 According to the coordinator of the Garissa-based Northern Forum for Democracy Khalif Abdi, devolution, contrary to previously held belief of propelling the counties in the region to prosperity, has indeed proved to be a curse.

“Instead of uniting communities, elected leaders, who left residents divided in their campaigns, are busy ostracizing communities perceived to be enemies because they voted againt them,” said Abdi.

He adds: “The tyranny of numbers was experienced in many of the counties as the bigger clans took all elective posts leaving the minor communities empty-handed. This has left the numerically marginalised clans very bitter.”

 He furher observed that because some of the smaller clans now feel their interests are not represented, most of them are now working to ensure failure of the county governments.

 Mandera became the first county to be baptized with fire after inter-clan skirmishes pitting between Garre and Degodia pastoralists communities broke out shortly after elections.

 More than one hundred people from the warring sides were killed and more that ten thousand families uprooted from their settlements in less than three months of macabre fighting.

 Courtesy of their numerical power, the Garre community easily captured all the county positions of governor, senator, county women representative and 26 out of the 30 Member of the County Assembly (MCA)  seats plus four out of six members of parliament positions.

 However, the two communities buried their difference in a peace pact signed in May.

 In an interview with The Standard on Sunday, the Governor of the Mandera County Ali Ibrahim Roba said his government had addressed the fears of marginalisation by any community by forming an all inclusive government. He promised to deal with the problem through equitable recruitment of staff as long as they were qualified for positions and not clan correctness.

 “As leaders who promised a lot of development to our people during the campaign period, we regret that unfortunate incidents of killings and insecurity had occurred in our county,” said the governor.

He regretted that for three months, residents couldn’t embark on developmental issues despite the county having been the first in the region to have a working government.

“In fact millions of money, which had been used in developmental projects, had to be diverted to address the issue” he explained.

He said apart from forming a ministry to handle the matter, the county government also established a day for the same, which will be marked in all six sub-counties annually to foster unity.

 Garissa is another county in the region bedevilled by run-away insecurity, which was blamed on the sympathizers of the Somali Islamist group, Al-Shabaab. The Al Shabbab fighters have repeatedly sneaked into the countryafter the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) commenced military action against them in Somalia and kicked them out of Kismayu.

War-torn country

Angered by the military invasion in their strongholds in war-torn country, Al Shabaab sympathisers within the country’s borders retaliated with grenade strikes, that has left more than fifty people including security officers killed and hundreds of others maimed in the cowardly reprisals.

 Garissa governor Nathif Adam says that security in Garissa has drastically improved in the last three months following concerted efforts by the local administration to introduce several security projects. He say: “My County Government has initiated a program dubbed Jua Jirani Yako (known your neigbouring), which encourages the residents to report suspicious characters in their neighbourhoods”.

A number of high mast floodlights have also been installed to light up major streets and selected residential estates, leading to a major drop in insecurity incidents –and now paving the way for investors and tourist to flock back to the the county.

“With all these opportunities available, it’s the responsibility of the local administration to take up these tasks and build a better tomorrow for themselves”, said the governor.

Moyale in Marsabit County, has become the latest in the conflict prone region to descend into inter-clan chaos as Borana and Gabra/Burji communities engaged in bloody fighting, that led to the death of about 100 people.

Over 60 families have been displaced and turned into either internally refugees or forced to sought refuge in the neighboring Ethiopia. Godana Halake, 65, from Butie village, one of the settlements badly affected by the conflict says that County government has brought a curse that has re-ignited the deep seated hatred and animosity among various pastoralists’ communities in the volatile region.

Borana, a community which is majority in Marsabit County badly lost to a coalition of smaller tribe who formedan outfit -REGABU (Rendille, Gabbra and Burji) which locked it out of elective positions.