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Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) now demands dialogue with State after major victory in court

By Kamau Muthoni and Patrick Beja | Jul 26th 2016 | 3 min read
Mombasa Republican Council members during the mention of a case in which they had been charged with being members of an unlawful society. MRC is now demanding talks with the Government concerning alleged historical injustices against the Coast region. (PHOTO: KELVIN KARANI/ STANDARD]

The Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) is now demanding talks with the Government concerning alleged historical injustices against the Coast region.

Members of MRC, who appeared emboldened by a Court of Appeal decision to lift a ban against the group, yesterday accused the State of maliciously marginalising the region.

"The ruling was fair and good news for us. We are now appealing to the Government to respect it," said MRC Secretary General Hamza Randu, who was accompanied by Council Secretary Malembi Mwatsahu and Organising Secretary Salim Issa Goga. Mr Randu said the Government must now address matters affecting the region.

"We have been voicing grievances but the Government has ignored us. We are now ready for talks because some some of the issues we complained about still affect us today. We don't stand for violence; we want dialogue to resolve issues relating to marginalisation," Randu said.

In 2012, George Saitoti, who was the minister for Internal Security, declared MRC a criminal group in a gazette notice. But the High Court overturned the decision. The Government appealed but the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of MRC yesterday.

Court of Appeal judges Daniel Musinga, Patrick Kiage, Jamilla Mohamed, Kathurima M'noti and William Ouko ruled that the lower court was right in lifting the notice banning MRC. They argued that every Kenyan has a right to demand secession if deemed the right course of action.

But the judges also noted that MRC could not pursue secession because it was not a registered entity.

Randu accused the Government of harassing MRC members. He also wants the State to stop categorising MRC as a criminal gang "since the courts have given us a clean bill of health".

He added, "We will soon meet our lawyers to chart a way forward. In the meantime, we are waiting for the Government to invite us for talks to resolve these issues."

The MRC was formed in 1999 to address perceived political and economic discrimination against the region. The group remained inactive until 2008, when it started agitating for self-rule under the slogan 'Pwani Si Kenya' (the Coast is not part of Kenya). Mr Saitoti then declared it a criminal gang and banned it.

Officials of MRC, including Randu, Robert Charo and Nyae Ngao went to court seeking to overturn the ban. Three judges, John Mwera, Francis Tuiyot and Mary Kasango ruled in their favour on July 25, 2012, triggering an appeal by Government.

While filing the appeal, the Attorney General said MRC's agenda to secede was not within the Kenyan law. But the judges said that argument was baseless.

"Respondents have a constitutional right to demand secession, but that can only be done within the confines of the Constitution," the judges said.

"If respondents wish to form a political party or movement to campaign for secession, the Constitution, even without the uninvited advice by the High Court, guarantees that right. But it is unlawful to pursue a lawful right in an unlawful manner," the ruling said.

The judges said if a community wants to have their own country, the State had no powers to force them to live in one bloc if they did not wish to.

"Having carefully considered the record of the appeal and the elaborate submissions by counsel, for which I commend them, I am persuaded the High Court came to the right conclusion that proscription of MRC was unconstitutional," said Justice Musinga. The other judges concurred.

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