Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has scoffed at opposition calls for secession and warned that stern action will be taken against anyone threatening the country’s peace and stability.
In an apparent reference to calls by the opposition for parts of the country to break away and plans to swear in National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga as president, he warned that those who “cross the line” will not be tolerated.
“We will not entertain any language, any action, that threatens our territorial integrity,” Mr Kenyatta told first-time governors and their deputies Thursday when he officially opened their retreat at Diani Reef Hotel in Kwale County.
“We can have dialogue, either individually or collectively, but one thing is clear; there is a line, and if you cross it, the law will deal with you,” he warned.
The Nasa coalition, which boycotted the October 26 repeat election, has vowed not to recognise President Kenyatta’s re-election.
Some of its leaders are also pushing for secession of parts of the country.
Among them is Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, who has drafted a Bill seeking the secession of all but seven of Kenya’s 47 counties to form the People’s Republic of Kenya.
Apart from the central region Mt Kenya counties of Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Embu, and Tharaka-Nithi, Mr Kaluma wants all the other 40 to break away from Kenya, alleging that they have been continually discriminated against by successive governments.
Mr Kaluma, in a draft Bill he has prepared for scrutiny by the electoral commission, alleges that President Kenyatta’s government has “rigged elections, emasculated Parliament, commissions and independent offices, and has run a systemic and systematic suppression of the other groups and communities”.
Last month, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo, and 15 lawmakers said they had started talks towards secession in protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s continued leadership.
And, in Parliament Thursday, Minority Leader John Mbadi was thrown out after saying the country has no President and refusing to withdraw his statement.
Some county assemblies have already passed people’s assembly motions to push for the opposition agenda, a move Attorney-General Amos Wako has declared unconstitutional.
The President Thursday waded into the matter, warning that “those who wish to operate outside the constitutional order will be dealt with firmly”.
In a show of defiance, as the President spoke in Diani, Nasa was reviving its push for the formation of people’s assemblies in its quest for electoral justice, barely a fortnight after it postponed the launch of the forums.
The coalition said its leadership will arrange a series of regional consultative meetings as it intensifies the establishment of the assemblies, which are part of its three-pronged war against the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The meetings will discuss the national governance structure of the assemblies as well as form agendas of discussion by the regional groups. The inaugural session will take place early in the new year, the coalition said.
“The first of these consultative forums, of the Coast region, is scheduled for Sunday, December 17, 2017,” said a statement signed by members of the people’s assembly steering committee chaired by economist David Ndii.
The counties and their leadership are likely to be the next battlegrounds for both Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta as each seeks allegiance.
As Nasa Thursday rooted for the formation of people’s assemblies, President Kenyatta, who was accompanied by former Ghanaian President John Mahama, was extending an olive branch to county leaders, saying he is open to dialogue with governors irrespective of their party affiliation.
“I extend a hand of friendship and partnership to all, he said, echoing Council of Governors chairman Josephat Nanok’s call for the national government and devolved units not to compete with each other, but to collaborate.
“Our people did not elect us to be divisive. They did not elect us to engage in politics. Ours is an executive role … to deliver on our aspirations, and on that I am open to dialogue so that we can achieve those objectives.”
Listing the achievements of devolution, including the first tarmac road in Wajir, the President vouched for unity and improvement of Kenyans’ lives.
“No Kenyan voted for disorder, disharmony or dispute in government,” he said.
The President pushed for resolution of disputes between counties and national government through dialogue instead of courts, and said he was happy that the Judiciary had directed that some cases be handled through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
He named housing, food security, nutrition and creation of jobs through manufacturing as some areas the national government could partner with counties.
Mr Mahama asked Kenyans to forget the uncertainties caused by recent polls, unite and focus on development.
“I am happy with what Kenya has achieved. All parties should keep the interests of Kenya first,” he said. He said that, being the biggest economy in the region, if Kenya “gets it right, all countries in the region will be well”.