By: Abdille Yussuf
Large parts of this country have been victims of political suppression and subjugation for a long time. The Northern counties, in particular, have been subjected to atrocities bordering on crimes against humanity—Wagalla and Malkameri massacres.
The 2010 Constitution gave these communities hope, which is now fading. Three recent events point to these communities still being in the clutches of proponents of a centralised system of governance.
The first was the 2019 population census. The exercise, which was expected to be independent, objective, apolitical and verifiable, was heavily politicised. In 2009 the centrists were shocked by the population of the Somali community.
The use of the census statistics in the delineation of boundaries and sharing of revenue faced a lot of hurdles, including threats by the then minister for planning to cancel the results in some northern Kenya constituencies. Concerted action by leaders from the region and court action cemented those statistics in the history of the nation.
The 2019 census seemed an apt opportunity for the centrist to manipulate, doctor, delegitimise and nullify the 2009 census results and put Somalis and other pastoralist communities where they belonged, in the dustbin of political subjugation and disenfranchisement.
The 2019 census results for Northern Kenya were polar opposites of the findings of the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey and the 2015 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey, which clearly revealed the region has the highest household size and birth rate. The 2019 census results for constituencies such as Tarbaj and Balambala defy statistical logic. Half of the residents of these constituencies are registered voters.
The second event was the recent Jubilee purge of parliamentary leadership. The Somali community in the last general election gave overwhelming support to Jubilee. Nearly all elected leaders from Mandera, Wajir and Garissa were either elected on the Jubilee ticket or other friendly parties. The community was the third, after Central and Rift Valley, to gave Jubilee a solid vote.
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Haile Selassie
The community was rewarded with the position of Majority leader. The beneficiary of the office, Aden Duale, with all his faults, is a principled politician who enjoyed bipartisan support in the House and an ardent defender of the rights of Somalis, Muslims and pastoralist communities. The purge, unceremoniously and without reference to the role played by the Garissa Township MP and the community, once again clearly showed that the community can be politically dumped when not needed.
The third event is the counties revenue sharing formula stalemate. The pastoralist counties were set to lose close to Sh18 billion cumulatively as per the amended formula by the Senate Finance committee. Wajir, for instance, was set to lose Sh1.9 billion. This would have definitely caused political, social and economic havoc in the county; close to half of the employees would have been declared redundant leading to the closure of many social amenities.
The Equalisation Fund, a provision in the Constitution, was meant to compensate the Northern counties for 50 years of marginalisation and put them on a path of accelerated development. But this fund has been the subject of lawsuits and political chicanery by the centrists such that its deadline may lapse without the counties benefiting in any way. Since the money is not returned to the Exchequer, it could be possible it is being hoarded for sinister purposes.
The Northern communities must now wake up to a harsh reality that Kenya’s political system is innately tribal. There is nothing nationalistic or patriotic about it. The communities must come together and form a political party to champion and protect their constitutional rights.
The 18 counties are a formidable bloc with a voting population of well over 3 million. With proper, principled and selfless leadership they can ascend to the highest political seat in the country or be kingmakers.
It will be appropriate to end with the words of Haile Selassie: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
Director, Northland Professional Institute