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MRC founders: separation was not part of original agenda

By - Tobias Chanji | Oct 16th 2012 | 4 min read

By Tobias Chanji

Not every coastal person supports the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC).

Founder secretary general Khatib Mjaka Mtengo and founder chairman Suleiman Said Yeya say they severed their membership three years ago and now allege violence and separatism were not part of the group’s original manifesto.

When The Standard spoke to them in Kwale County, the former MRC members said secession was cleverly introduced into the group’s agenda by agents of the land-owning class in the area fearful that they would be the losers by manipulating genuine grievances.

“The issue of not voting was not ours as Mijikenda because we need to have our political leaders to take control of all six counties and fight for our rights,” according to Mtengo, who says calls to boycott elections were sneaked into MRC’s policies by forces that sought to subjugate the indigenous people.

They claimed that MRC alarmed Kenyan authorities about their intentions when they met the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in Libya a few years ago.

These natives of Ukunda in Kwale where MRC was born in 2005 have been arrested many times over separatist politics but have since deserted the group claiming it has digressed from its original ideals and adopted methods not envisaged at its founding.

They now claim the movement that was formed to champion Mijikenda interests has been hijacked by “a certain community”, according to Mtengo.

According to this official, he and other leaders including detained MRC leader Omar Mwamnwadzi, were approached by delegations of Mijikenda to create a non-violent movement to agitate for the community’s rights against historical injustices.

“Before that, people only engaged in violence,” he said, adding that as a Muslim preacher, he only was concerned with raising consciousness among locals about historical injustices.

“The teachings attracted many people whose eyes were opened on January 7, 2005. We called a leaders’ meeting that also incorporated the youth and they all wanted to know about the past agreements between the sultan and the Queen of England,” he says.

He goes on to adds that after several meetings, MRC was formed in January 2005 and it embarked on a campaign to write letters to the UK, United Nations and International Court of Justice stating Coast Province’s grievances.

Anger grew

He says MRC was born with himself as secretary general, Yeya as chairman and Mwamnwadzi as member.

As membership swelled, anger welled and some people began to agitate for violence, says Mtengo, who admits that MRC members were behind the Mulungunipa forest incident in March 2005 when police killed several youths found taking oaths.

“On March 8, 2005, there was a meeting of some of our members at Mulungunipa forest in Kwale. Police were informed that a group of armed youths were taking oaths in the forest and when they came most of them were arrested while five were shot dead,” he said.

He continued: “We were also arrested and taken to Kwale court where we were charged with taking oaths, practicing war-like activities, taking police guns and plotting to split Kenya. We were unable to raise bond and were remanded but because there was no evidence we were released on January 8, 2008, and some people advised us to go slow,” he explained.

Yeya says that despite their problems with the law,  their followers were agitating for robust action and discloses that in 2009 the restless ones began to engage in activities that they did not approve of and soon he and Mtengo were shunned in mosques and other public places.

“Members went ahead and filled the leadership vacuum,” says Yeya, adding that what was appealing to most members was the prospect that colonial agreements held the key for automomy of the Coast region.

Yeya says he differed with MRC agitation when some militants within the group began to agitate for secession.

He claims the separation call was engineered by a clique that feared the rising consciousness among the landless and alleges that a group at the Coast is behind MRC’s calls to burn voter and ID cards.

Yeya feels that this clique of individuals fears they could lose the huge swathes of land they own.

“When they saw that they might lose most of their land they started their secession calls. Right now they are saying that we should not vote yet they continue campaigning and have not burnt their own identity papers,” said Yeya.

Pattern of violence

Yeya cites a pattern of violence blamed on MRC, which he says only affects certain areas in the region as proof that the violence is engineered.

The former secretary general claims MRC has been hijacked, adding that the naming of MRC itself is a misnomer for a movement that purports to fight for the whole of Coast Province.

 Yeya, who at one time was a member of the Mijikenda council of elders, says Kenyan authorities began to panic about the group’s activities when he and other MRC leaders visited the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, Mtengo has already declared interest to run for the  Msambweni parliamentary seat and  describes himself as a peacemaker.

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