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The flag of 16 suspected members of separatist group dubbed "Singwaya" who were arrested by police in Mombasa. [Weldon Kipkemboi/Standard]
Sixteen members of a secession group operating in Coast have been arrested.

According to the police, the suspects belong to Shungwaya Government group that is agitating for secession of the Kenyan coast.

The police allege the 16 suspects include an 88-year-old witch doctor believed to be administering oaths.

The suspects had reportedly travelled from Kaloleni in Kilifi County on Saturday by matatu intending to enter Mombasa and plant a flag on a government building, but alighted at Jitoni in Jomvu after suspecting the police were monitoring them.

"The suspects claimed they want to form their own government. We don't know which type of government they are pushing for and so we have arrested them and investigations are on," said Jomvu police boss James Mutua.

According to police accounts, the suspects were intercepted and arrested at Aldina in Mikindiani.

Mr Mutua claims the group had four flags, rolls of marijuana, clothes and tapes of the group's anthem.

Two weeks ago, authorities in Kwale suspended the operations of Miji Kenda Taireni Association (MTA), claiming it was inciting locals.

Local politicians

However, its officials accused local politicians of concocting the claims to undermine its popularity.

Kwale County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo claimed the organisation was inciting hatred and carrying out suspect activities in different parts of the county.

But MTA officials have denied the claims and agreed to be investigated, saying they are a peaceful and law-abiding group.

MTA spokesman Peter Ponda, who is also the organisation's chairman, said: "We are legally registered by the Registrar of Societies and we are two years old. Our mandate is to unite the coastal people, especially the Mijikenda, and empower them through education, health, devolution and employment."

He said the sentiments by the county commissioner were shocking and denounced suspension of the group's operation.

Mr Ponda confirmed having met security officials and blamed politicians for the group's predicament.

Taireni in the local Mijikenda dialect means 'greeting'. MTA is a coast-based welfare group that advocates the rights of coastal Kenyans. The group has offices and officials in the six coastal counties.

Shungwaya Government group secession
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