The violence in Marsabit County has spiked once more. There have been two contributory factors to it. The first is most likely the 2022 General Elections. The second and long-standing issue is the ethnic feud between the Gabra and Borana.
When National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani was appointed to the post, I commented in this column that President Kenyatta may have made a bad situation worse. The appointment was bound to create enmity and tension where it should have been minimised. Appointing Marsabit Governor Mohamud Ali a CS would have heralded the same suspicion-filled environment.
We know our people; so, it is important to trust the views that we give.
It’s difficult to pin-point the cause of the conflict between the two feuding ethnic communities. The only guess is that it’s inspired by a hate crime. As a result, the problem has negatively affected service delivery. Ethnicity has also become a pawn chip used by local politicians to divide and rule.
There is now a need for a rethink as to how Marsabit can be governed so that the residents can finally look to a peaceful and prosperous future.
I’m not saying Mr Yatani is involved in the latest skirmishes, but his close position to the central government is bound to inspire tension as fingers of suspicion have been pointed his way by the current administration in Marsabit.
Whether there is real or imagined fear is immaterial for now. Both Boranas and Gabras have lost many people in continued conflict between themselves. The latest ambush has cost four lives. There is likelihood of escalation of the conflict as we head to the next election.
The communities caught up in the violence may be genuinely affected by the violence or may be crying wolf. It's difficult to tell which group instigates the violence because they blame each other. The county security team has remained silent on the issue or is in bed with one of the parties as it’s been alleged time and again and that does not inspire confidence that the conflict will be going away any time soon.
The county is in dire need of development. It has lagged for decades due to lack of interest in the area from successive regimes. Devolution has now made it easier for public services to be brought home, unlike when every decision was made by the central government in the capital Nairobi. The policies took ages to implement or failed to materialise due to bureaucracy. With continued violence and tribal clashes, the autonomy given to the local people is now under threat.
Linked to elections
Historically, the violence in Marsabit was mainly linked to cattle rustling, which was also linked to drought-famine periods. The latest indiscriminate murder of prominent individuals within the Borana and Gabra communities lends itself to the violence most likely linked to the upcoming elections. It’s hard not to blame politicians — the current administration — for wanting to hold on to power and Mr Yatani for wanting to avenge his loss in the last gubernatorial election. The whole situation has become murky and will get uglier with time as we inch closer to the elections.
It’s imperative, therefore, to avert any more loss of lives by instituting special measures in Marsabit from now going forward. This is very important in order to take the sting out of the upcoming election and the ensuing violence.
Democracy can and should only be allowed to prevail in a peaceful environment. Marsabit is anything but, and as long as politicians are in charge, the situation will only get worse.
The continued conflict in Marsabit affects the ordinary citizens the most as they are left picking up the pieces once the politicians have long gone back to Nairobi after winning their seats. It’s therefore important to consider having a special management system such as the one that was brought to Nairobi to rescue Marsabit.
We all saw the chaos that ensued within Nairobi when then Governor Mike Sonko was in charge. Normalcy returned to the capital with the establishment of Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
However, a dual system such as that operating in Nairobi will not work in Marsabit as long as tribal tension persists. If anything, it’s bound to derail the work of the special committee if we choose to keep the county assembly as well.
Our politics is fraught with tension at the best of times. Throwing it amidst perennially warring communities poses more threats to peace and security. Marsabit needs a politics-free period to cool off the conflict and help it realise its part of Kenya Vision 2030 goals.
The stop-and-start model of governance due to conflict will not help the county in the long run. The time to help Marsabit is now. Let us take the county out of 2022 political mania and use the time to find men and women who will help its residents to prosper.
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