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We wanted to have our way as minority, says pre-seccesionist

By | November 6th 2010

Government had left. The party was a marionette for settlers run by the two major communities - the Luo and the Kikuyu - to safeguard the over 60,000 white settlers who grabbed all potential areas in Kenya," he says.

In 1960, when independence was approaching, it is alleged Somalis and other tribes were left out in the transition from colonial to independent Kenya.

"Somalis have historically been discriminated by the white settlers because of being stubborn and refusing to be assimilated like other African tribes. In 1960s, the NFD communities had a meeting in Garbatula (in Isiolo) and decided not to be part of independent Kenya," said Stanbul.

He said two reasons motivated the wish to be part of Somalia.

"We wanted to avoid being assimilated and to emancipate ourselves from British discrimination that would have manifested itself when the country got independence," he says.

That was when NPPP was registered and became a party and its headquarters were moved from Garbatulla to Wajir, which was thought to be more central compared to other districts.

"Contrary to claims, President Kenyatta was never a nationalist. He continued to overlook the region in development, agriculture and education," he says.

The NFD which covered an area of 102,000 square miles was used as a buffer zone by the British government against invasion by Italians who controlled Somalia.

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"We wanted to have our way as minorities without the majority having a say over us," Stanbul says.

"When we started to popularise and publicise our agenda for self determination, it bore fruits in 1962 when the colonial government decided to conduct referendum to decide if we should secede or not," he recalls.

That marked the first referendum ever in Kenya and it was conducted as a public hearing in barazas.

The head of the referendum was Dr GCM Onyieku, a Nigerian who now holds a senior position at the United Nations. His Deputy was a Canadian Major General MP Bogert.

Their mandate was to ascertain and report public opinion in the NFD regarding the wish to breakaway from Kenya.

According to a report by the then Secretary of State for Colonies Duncan Sandys, 87 per cent voted to secede while the rest said ‘no’.

Those who rejected were mostly from Marsabit and riverline communities like the Pokomo and Rendile. Majority of those who supported were the Abduwak, Auliyan Mohamed Suwer, Degodia, Garre, Ajuran and Murule. There was a mixed reaction from the Christian Boranas.

The political parties that supported the pro-secession were the NPPPP, the Northern Frontier Democratic Party (NFDP), The People National League (PNL) and The National Political Movement (NPM).

The referendum was carried out in August 1962. While on his way to London in March 1963, Sandys made an announcement claiming the people were against secession.

Artificial boundary

But he noted: "The NFD supported the referendum to remain in Kenya but the agenda to self determination is not final".

In July 1963, six senior party officials including Stanbul, Yussuf Hajji (father of Defence Minister and Ijara MP Mohammed Yussuf Hajji), Ahmed Abdi Ogle, Hajj Jabane, Hadi Sheikh Guyo Dube went to London to argue their case for secession and table their final request to the British Government.

The meeting followed a request two years earlier.

In the letter to the Governor and signed by Hapi Wako — then president of the NPPPP — and Stanbul it said "…there can be no reason for Northern Province to stay as part of Kenya, since all demands for security, economic advancement and enhanced education are either ignored or refused. We beg the Governor to receive an emergency delegation to discuss the future of Northern Province".

In reply the Governor said: "… we are not proposing to reply in detail to the memorandum presented by the NPPPP except in one minor matter of veterinary policy…".

With that, the stage was set for a bruising battle. A letter dated February 1963 to the Governor signed by Hersi Haji, an NPPPP official said: "… we demand NFD immediate secession and reunification with Somalia Republic…if we do not get our demands by peaceful means then we will use every other possible means to smash the artificial boundary. Secession or bloodshed…"

With this declaration, the shifta war broke out.

"When in London, we were always referred to as Somali delegates. At another meeting in Rome in 1963, we walked out in protest because the UK delegation had a proposal that described people in NFD as people of Somalia living in Kenya. This meant we were foreigners, almost like invaders. But the land belonged to us," Stanbul said.

Before they left for Rome Conference, they had a big conference of NFD in Wajir on March 24, 1963 where a delegation of about 32 local leaders resigned from government posts. "We severed relationships with the colonial government. The resolution in the meeting was to disobey the government," he said. After the meeting, Mr Hapi was arrested when he returned to Garbatulla and people started to fight the government. That is how the shifta war was born.

Government in exile

"The war targeted Government installations. Our struggle was limited within the borders of NFD. There was only one incident where our fighters invaded parts of Meru and Coast Province.

"In November 1 1963, I was arrested on arrival from Rome in my home in Garissa (under the Prevention Act of 1960). I was 26 years then and single.

I was taken to Kajiado and put under house arrest and kept incommunicado for three years. I was later taken to Rusinga Island then to Homa Bay. I was also moved to Matuga and Kwale," he said

He was released in October 1969 together with some of his colleagues and fled to Somalia via Dar es Salaam, which was the only possible route then. He stayed in Somalia for 21 years until the civil war broke out in 1990.

"When we were in Somalia we saw ourselves as government in exile and not as shiftas as we had been branded. The conflict in Somalia is fuelled by western superpowers that fear the dreams of Greater Somalia.

That is the dream I am still holding," Stanbul said.

Stanbul is the Sultan of the Abduwak sub clan of the larger Ogaden clan.

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