NAIROBI—At the Parliament prescint in Nairobi, legislators from the formerly North Eastern province are known for their political in-fights, backstabbing and lack of common agenda for their electorates.
This was made evident by the Embakasi member of parliament, Babu Owino during a press conference at the Parliament media center when he was reacting to the news that the Wajir Woman Representative, Fatuma Gedi bribed MPs to shoot down a sugar report. The city MP was overhead urging Fatuma to gang up with her fellows from Northeastern counties “because that’s where your energy is needed with Aden Duale.”
Their are 18 elected MPs, three senators, three Women Representative and over 5 nominated legislators from Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties serving at the Legislature, but there’s never been a time when they unanimously pushed for a common interests that favour the interest of their electorates.
Unlike the other seven regions where there’s political prefects and issues that’s untouchable, Northeastern legislators lack a kingpin and common agenda. The lack of kingpin is mainly caused by the dynamic Somali clan system and past precedent where non of the previous leaders since independence attempted to form common platform for a common approach.
The only time they spoke in one voice and paraded for the cameras to picture a picture of unity was in 2015 during the deadly Garissa University attack where they unanimously made a declaration to apprehend the attackers and their local contacts.
The two-term Garissa Township MP and Majority Leader in the National Assembly could pass for a political kingpin of the region due to his position and the fact that he’s the chairman of the Pastoralist Parliamentary Group, but his relationship with section of the legislators and rumours
of supremacy battle with Aden Keynan, a four-term legislator, denied him the elusive post of kingpin.
It was once reported that Aden Keynan attempted to rally for Majority Leader post although they later denied the claims.
Duale has strong personality and political difference with Fafi MP Abdikarim Osman and his Balambala counterpart, Abdi Shurie. He also differs with Wajir Representative Fatuma Gedi.
The Eldas legislator joined elective politics in 1997 as MP for Wajir, lost the seat in 2002 elections to the late Ahmed Khalif. He later reclaimed it from Khalif’s son in the 2007 polls and he’s never been out of the August House since then. He’s known for effective mobilization of Wajir leaders during elections as evident in 2013 and ‘17 General Elections.
Unlike Duale who attempts to stamp authority as regional political master, Keynan avoids the limelight and has never tried to bring the legislators to a common call or unity push despite his lucrative post as a Parliamentary Service Commissioner and being the longest serving legislator after Garissa senator, Yusuf Haji.
Yussuf Haji has been in the public service since 1969 and is now the head of the Building Bridges Initiative. He is believed to be among individuals who counsel the President. Despite the vast experience and deep connection in the State, Yussuf Haji avoids getting labeled as regional kingpin and totally avoids gathering and press conferences where the interest of the North is the agenda.
Due to the factors above, the political leaders from the North Eastern Province (NEP) are not considered a threat to any political groupings and national leaders bank on that reality to pull their favorite leader to their side.
2019 Unfulfilled Demands and the TSC standoff
Every time an attack is launched in either of the NEP counties, non-local teachers and health workers leave their working station, fearing for their lives. Some of the staff apply for relocation to other parts of the country despite objection from the leaders. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has severally transferred teachers from the even Garissa even when the attack happened as far as Mandera. The CEO of TSC, Ms Nancy Macharia declined to heed calls for what the leaders termed as “discrimination.”
Just this year, NEP was faced by a common challenges: mass cancellation of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and disputed 2019 census report.
In January, leaders from the NEP criticised the government for withholding results of schools from the region over cheating allegations. The government did not respond neither did the KNEC. Most of the withheld results were later cancelled.
Just recently when the census results was released, the leadership of the region held a presser at the Parliament to air their displeasure with the result which they termed as malicious
Despite their repeated pressers and public statements, the president continues to ignore the concerns of the NEP leaders.
Let’s make a quick comparison with last week’s press conference by the Central Kenya leaders and their objection to the awaited BBI proposal.
On October 25th, over 40 MPs and Senators drawn from the region issued what they termed irreducible minimum conditions for the region to back the anticipated BBI report, top on the list being “injustices in representation”.
The presser caused jitters at State House, prompting a meeting of the president and Central Kenya leaders that was held at Sagana on Friday where Uhuru pleaded with the leaders to support the BBI.
Why did it take forever to achieve the same for NEP grievances?
What has to be changed to achieve crop of leaders who, besides the personal interest, fight to protect and preserve the interest of the NEP electorates. Should we blame the varied clan identities, lack of unity of purpose or absence of strategic plan and roadmap?