MOMBASA — The Mombasa Republican Council, better known as the MRC, has been banned in Kenya since 2010. Wednesday, the high court in Mombasa ruled that this decision was unconstitutional and that the MRC may now register as a political party. Because the MRC’s primary objective is secession from Kenya, coastal residents have mixed feelings about the court’s ruling.
The MRC claims that the land comprising the Kenyan coastal strip was “leased” to Kenya in 1963, after an accord was signed between the leaders of Kenya and Zanzibar. According to the MRC, this 50-year lease is to expire in June 2013, and should revert back to the coastal people.
Abiding by the slogan, “Pwani si Kenya,” or “The Coast is Not Kenya,” MRC supporters want their own country. They say the coastal region generates much revenue for Kenya - and rich Kenyans from up-country - yet they live with poverty, unemployment and land grievances.
“In fact, in Coast Province, we have the port, Kenya Port Authority, we have the various organizations, and tourism in this area is concentrated. So why does all revenue from this region go to up-country? We are very angry with this,” MRC spokesman Mohammed Rashid Mraja explained.
Some even worry that the MRC is capable of inciting mass violence, possibly during the next round of Kenyan elections, scheduled to take place in March 2013.
Mraja says that this fear is unfounded. “MRC has no plans for any war or chaos. It is only the government of Kenya that wants to engage in war. But for us, we want peace,” he said.
But Ruth, 25, is not so certain. She is already making plans to leave her job as a housekeeper in Mombasa and to stay with her family up-country during the elections. She says she does not trust the MRC.
“People will die," said Ruth. "People will suffer a lot, like in the 2007 election. Many people suffered. The young children suffered. Women with children suffered. Women were being raped. The Pwani [coastal people], they cannot rule…most of them. They are not learned.”
MRC supporter Rashid Kivyaso says that the group does not want to resort to violence, but may be forced to do so if the Kenyan government does not agree to its demands.
“People are tired," he said. "We have been oppressed since the time of [the] Portuguese [colonization]. Then it comes to Arabs. And now our own Africans, who tended to say that they are going to protect us - instead of protecting now, they have become to, manipulating us and exploiting us, even our resources and everything. So, all these frustrations, will multiply in the future, for something we don’t like to talk about.”
MRC has another court case pending, challenging the authority of the electoral commission to hold elections at the coast.
Because MRC supporters do not recognize the Kenyan government as their own, they have threatened to boycott national voting.
Mwakurorera, 70, is a former member of the Kenyan military and a staunch MRC supporter.
“We would not like to support, to vote, in this province, but they should do their voting, in Kenya," he said. "We are not Kenyans, anyway. I should repeat that one, we are not Kenyans.”
After Wednesday's ruling, Mraja says that MRC leadership will now discuss whether they will register as a political party. The Mombasa Court will hear the elections case on August 29.