The call for secession is premature, unnecessary, shelve it

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The secession debate has been raging for the past few days.

It is a debate that has been created by people who feel that two regions in Kenya have lorded it over them for a long time.

It is a debate that sounds very dangerous to some but to me it sounds very attractive and romantic. In certain parts of our country, the debate seems to be attaining some messianic tone and an aura of de javu.

The time for liberation has come.

This is partly because they feel disenfranchised and oppressed by a hostile government.

The secession debate is healthy and as a country we need to confront these things.

After all both the United Nations Charter and Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognise a people’s right to self-determination.

A number of scholars have however found the UN charter self-contradictory.

The preamble of the United Nations’ Charter (UN Charter) declares that justice and respect for international law and the international community is to be maintained.

The core principle of international law delineated in the UN Charter is that a state’s territorial integrity is inviolable.

However, the UN also enforces nation states’ obligations to their citizens by granting individuals the right of self-determination.

The right of self-determination refers to a group of individuals’ ability to make “choices free from the force of the institutional framework within which they live”.

Secession often takes a violent struggle to achieve. Secession occurs when persons in a country or state declare their independence from the ruling government.

Violent struggle

When a dissatisfied group secedes, it creates its own form of government in place of the former ruling government. Secessions are serious manoeuvres that lead to, or arise from, military conflict.

The lack of specific international law guiding rights of self-determination and protecting nations’ territorial integrity has contributed to unnecessary chaos and conflicts.

The UN Charter must be reformed to include a legal framework with detailed guidelines for secession movements and corresponding accountability measures.

In Kenya, calls for secession are not new. In 1998, former President Kibaki, while accompanied by a group of MPs from central Kenya, called for secession and formation of a new State to include Laikipia, Nakuru, Meru, Embu and Central Kenya. They viewed Moi’s government as oppressive, tyrannical and lacking legitimacy and the right to govern.

President Kibaki became President and all calls for secession were buried with his electoral victory in 2002. He ruled for 10years and handed over power calling for Kenya to remain a unitary state.

In February 2003, 14 Rift Valley MPs reeling from the acts of the Kibaki Government, which they considered oppressive and tyrannical, called for the formation of Rift Valley State. The calls for formation of Rift Valley State ended when William Ruto became the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya.

Healthy debate?

Secession debate is healthy but it must not be carried out in a manner that diminishes the weighty issues we face as a country and whether there are no other options left.

It is hardly seven years since we passed a new constitution. Are we openly admitting that the new constitution has failed? Are we saying that the new constitution has been hijacked and watered down by powerful cartels? Are the issues being raised incapable of being sorted out under a new constitution.

Does the creation of two or three states help us a country? Have we counted the cost of secession? Is Kenya becoming a failed state? A scholar by the name Nicola Pijovic has written an article about Somali Land titled “Seceding but not Succeeding”.

This is a story about Somaliland and its failure to gain regional and international recognition.

The United States Civil War was the biggest and the most serious struggle for secession in the history of United States and the world.

In February 1861, South Carolina seceded from the Union, and Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee followed suit shortly thereafter.

These states seceded because they objected to attempts by the federal government to abolish the enslavement of black people. The mass secession led to four years of civil war and the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

The seceding states established their own government called the Confederate States of America and fought the US military forces with their own army. When the confederate forces were defeated in April 1865, the seceding states rejoined the United States.

Whereas these debates are healthy, let us strive to strengthen devolution of resources and power.

Let’s address the weaknesses in our Constitution, which includes asking ourselves whether a pure presidential system serves our needs or still promotes the big-man syndrome or political patronage.

If the current constitution totally fails to work for us and keep us together, then the debate will become meaningful. This secession debate is premature and unhelpful in my humble view.

Mr Mwamu is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a former President of East Africa Law Society