Secession talk wrong prescription for right diagnosis

Kenya has been abuzz in the past few days with threats of secession, complete with new maps and flags circulating on social media.

This arose from the contested outcome of the last General Election that is now the subject of litigation in the Supreme Court.

The opposition coalition has claimed that the election was so badly flawed that the results do not reflect the will of the people and should be cancelled wholesale.


The ruling coalition, on the other hand, has insisted that the election was free and fair, and that the people spoke clearly in their favour.

In my opinion, we must agree that Kenya faces serious challenges in her quest for cohesion.

All contending parties agree on this. Over time, certain sections of this country have been living under the moniker “marginalised”, real or perceived.

We have accepted that it is fine to leave some areas of the country in a state of under-development for whatever reason, and we have no qualms calling some inhabited parts of our country “remote” and “hardship” areas.


We have over time accumulated tales of unsolved murders suspected to have been committed with State connivance, and dozens of conspiracy theories abound that cast the government as a place full of tribal bigotry and organised discrimination.

It is also a fact that the sense of grievance is currently tilted largely towards the parts of this country that have voted against the incumbent in most of the recent elections, and the emerging narrative that it is official state policy to ignore or discriminate against certain of our people based on ethnicity is gaining currency.

Recent police actions after the elections where low income areas inhabited predominantly by members of one tribe were targeted for violent suppression of protests only serve to lend credence to this narrative.

There is therefore no doubt that the country is divided down the middle from a political perspective.

Unfortunately many Kenyans counted on constitutional and legislative reforms targeting the conduct of our elections to deal with this division which, to me, constitutes misplaced focus.

In my view, the problems bedevilling this country cannot be conclusively solved through a presidential election.

While it is natural for one to feel exhilarated when their favourite candidate wins a presidential election, this outcome on its own is meaningless if the elected fellow is not compelled to move with speed and begin dismantling the state architecture that has fed the perception of discrimination amongst some communities in this country.

The demonstrable lack of enlightened leadership results in poor decision-making that the common mwananchi inevitably attributes to the leader’s ethnic origin, and transfers their sense of helplessness and discontent to other members of that community.

A leadership that engages in divisive tribal talk, dismisses members of certain communities as being inconsequential, and marks members of some communities for violent repression cannot guarantee the peaceful coexistence that is a core requirement for a cohesive republic.

We have therefore been looking for solutions in the wrong place when we hanker after a presidential change of guard without an in depth examination of what ails us as a country.


As a result of this, an election loss, especially with the perception of fraud related to it, becomes a trigger for secession talk.

In all honesty, if we were to follow through with that threat and hold a referendum on some sort of split based on the same problematic ethnic identity, we would still end up with the same problems of tribal marginalisation and conflict in the new entities.

In my view, if it is true that a certain cabal has captured the state and uses state power to thwart the wishes of the people, it is only right and proper to seek to evict that cabal from power, rather than gifting them with a new state where they would continue repressing and cannibalising their poor subjects.

You don’t offer a thief a kingdom when he invades your home. You seek all legitimate means of evicting him!

Atwoli is Associate Professor and Dean, Moi University School of Medicine [email protected]

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