Kenya: Mandera sacrifices democracy in the altar of clannism
By BONIFACE ONGERI
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Dominant Gurreh community in Mandera County seems to have sealed a deal to lock out minority clans in the first county government to be elected on March 4.
Through clan council of elders’ endorsements, the community is scheming to take up majority of the county elective seats, thanks to its numerical advantage. Part of the wider scheme was transporting community members outside the county to register as voters in the county to ensure the voting figures don’t betray in March the elections.
Three aspirants, all from the Gurreh clan, are seeking election as the first governor for the county. They are former Director of Flight Operation for DAC Aviation East Africa Ltd Captain Ali Ibrahim Roba, former clerk to Mandera County Council Abdikadir Adan Chitto and former Mandera Arid Lands Resource Management Programme Coordinator Ahmeddubow Abdi Noor.
A section of the Gurreh clan elders is said to have tried various desperate bids to face the election as a united block. First, it formed a Nairobi-based Gurreh Council of Elders and tasked it with ‘vetting’ and ‘endorsing’ one of the contenders for the governor seat. The 21-member council, chaired by Maalim Ali Noor, endorsed Roba.
Maalim said the decision was reached after a gruelling traditional process that took more than two years of grilling the contenders and factoring sub-clan factors in the larger Gurreh clan.
He added that the idea of a single candidate was drawn from “learned lessons”, including the experience of the past general elections, where the community lost their traditional Mandera Central parliamentary seat to the Degodia clan because the Gurreh fronted ‘too many’ candidates.
“The idea of minimising competitive politics is to make ensure our internal disagreements do not hamper preparations to take control of the county government,” said Maalim.
However, the Roba endorsement led to a fall out with Mr Chitto, who dismissed the council’s move as “flawed, predetermined and undemocratic”. He has since embarked on a mission to seek support through door-to-door meetings and rallies.
“The decision to nominate someone for the seat is not binding. Anybody who thinks will have field day should better get prepared for a bruising contest. Mandera County is not a monarchy. It is a cosmopolitan county with diverse clans, who should be given an opportunity to decide their destiny,” he said.
Part of the council mandate was also to unite the Gurreh clan to sweep all the other seats in the county.
The council also anointed former Mandera Central MP Billow Kerrow for senator, Farhiya Mahabub for women representative, Maalim Mohamud (Takaba constituency), Mohamed Abdi Haji (Banisa), Adan Mohamed Nur (Mandera North) and Mohamed Adan Huka (Mandera South).
During the just-concluded voter registration exercise, the council hired vehicles to transport the Gurreh outside Mandera county back home to register.
The decision by the Gurreh to fill all the positions except deputy governor, Lafey and Mandera East constituencies, has sparked concerns among other clans including the Murule and Degodia, Shekali, Shabelle, Warabea, Leisan and Gabawein.
It remains to be seen whether their decision would be binding with the rest of the clans, who say they have not been informed of the decision, expressing discontent.
The other clans describe a county government with only one clan in charge as a recipe for disaster in a volatile county like Mandera.
In response, a section of breakaway Gurreh clan, led by Chitto, has formed an alliance with the other clans to appear inclusive. In the coalition, the Gurreh retains the seat of governor, the Degodia (the deputy governor) and the Murulle will fill the position of the senator.
Chitto has already appointed Dr Ali Maalim Mohamud, a Degodia, as his deputy governor, while the senator will be contested by Hussein Mohammed Weytan, a Murulle, under the alliance. Ubah Abdi Gedi will be the alliance’s women representative candidate while Mohammed Hussein Ali alias Qaras, a Murulle, will be the alliance candidate for the newly created Lafey constituency.
In effect the contest for Mandera County governor seat will technically be a battle between democracy and the clan elders’ traditional powers.
Pundits say the establishment of the Mandera County government will either be a start of peaceful all-inclusive government or a continuation of the sporadic tribal feuds that are the hallmark of the county.
Chitto said, under his watch, he will work to end the sporadic inter-clan conflicts and ensure food security for the population. The county often experiences spillover conflicts from neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia and, he says, it requires diplomacy to unite all the clans in the county who also transcend in the two countries.
If elected, Chitto says, he will achieve this through fair distribution of resources to minimise discontent. He is counting on his managerial experience as humanitarian aid worker.
He also vows to give corruption and impunity zero tolerance in his leadership, if elected the governor. Provision of quality education and healthcare also form part of his agenda.
Aspirant Noor says he would ensure food security for the residents, if given chance to serve as the first county governor.
He says honesty, integrity and transparency would define his leadership and his more than 25-year experience in public service in the agriculture, fisheries and livestock sub-sectors would revolutionalise the county in terms of agricultural production.
And Roba says, if elected, he will leave an indelible mark in the county economy and development the same way he did in the aviation sector. He says he would propel the county towards diligent resource management given his experience in the corporate sector. He adds that his leadership will be consultative.
“I have drawn up realistic achievable development strategies for the county over the next five years,” he said. “The process of fine-tuning the strategies to attach costs to the expected social economic investments is on-going. We have up to date data that will facilitate budgetary plans.”
Roba sees the 15 per cent county allocation by the national government as a drop in the ocean and promises to seek grants and direct investment in infrastructure and business projects.