There is no need for secession, at least in Kenya now. Even if different regions were to secede, say, Kenya ends up divided into two, it would just be the start of a long disintegration process, where every region, loosely based on the semi-autonomous regions (provinces) at independence, will want to be a state. Even if Kikuyuland is joined with Kalenjinland in these debates, there is really no long term justification for the two groups to remain tied in the hip forever, even though they are dominating Kenya’s state infrastructure now. The same applies to the Luos and the other smaller or marginalized ethnic groups. Wandia Njoya also recently wrote a very important analysis of how our ‘tribe’ classifications have been fluid and have changed so much if you look at the classifications in the censuses in pre and post-colonial Kenya.
A recent example is the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. From the 80s to the 90s, SFR Yugoslavia was engulfed in political crisis and inter-ethnic wars due to unresolved issues. In the end, a country that was made up of six republics drawn along ethnic and historical lines: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Add World War II to the mix, add Tito and Slobodan Milošević, add the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, and in 1990 you have the dissolution of the SFR Yugoslavia. From 1990, each of those regions went their separate ways. So from the SFR Yugoslavia which was created in 1943, the breakup which started in the 1990s, led to the independence of Croatia in 1991, Slovenia in 1991, Republic of Serbian Krajina tried between q991 to 1995 and ended up being part of Croatia, Republic of Macedona in 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1995, etc etc. It is contestable whether they have become better states. Also look at the continuing disintegration of the USSR.
The constitution presents secession as a clean deal, signature on a paper, backed by an ideological understanding of self-determination, but in reality, it is a long and painful process, and the benefits are not always guaranteed, especially in Africa. Secession is not always a solution. In most cases, it is a consequence of the weak glues holding the constituent parts of a nation-state melting away. But even if its pursuit is fairly peaceful, say like the referendum for Scottish independence, we also have to look at the history of neighbouring states. In the process of disintegration, what will prevent Somalia from coming for the Northern Frontier District that Kenya stole from them? What will prevent Uganda from laying a stake on the western region of Kenya and the Rift Valley? How about Ethiopia grabbing Turkanaland? Afterall they have been eyeing it since forever. And in that process, Tanzania would simply carter away Kenya’s Coast region. You will find yourself seceding from Kenya only to end up in Uganda or Somalia. LOL.
It is for this reason that for a region to secede, in a volatile region such as ours, it must have a semblance of a standing army to protect itself, not only from the old cruel state it is breaking away from, but also the new neighbours who see it as small potatoes that can be whipped into the bellies with groundnut soup. The police and the army are the state’s tools for enacting the monopoly of violence, at home and abroad. I’m only seeing, say for example Luos throwing stones. I’m not seeing them having machine guns under their beds.
I have written here, a lot about the economic viability of small states, with the exception of a few. If I was to make decisions, Africa itself should have been say 10 huge federal republics, instead of 54+ countries. Populations and market sizes are important factors when looking at the economic viability of a state. Huge nation-states with huge populations, if managed well, become the strongest players in international relations. There is a correlation between population growth and urbanization, and a close correlation with economic development, this is because urban centres are melting pots for innovation and provide environments for increasing economies of scale, if managed well. Look at all the rich countries in the world. They are urban countries. This is why I always find it contradictory when population control, in sparsely populated Africa, is promoted. Just like in every region in the world, the biggest and powerful countries in Africa, will be those with huge populations hence huge markets. Imagine the wealth a company can generate selling nipple rings to 200 million Nigerians compared to 4 million Luos in Kenya.
The nature of the nation-state is also changing. We should be careful not to be stuck on Westphalian sovereignty or the nationalistic impulses of the 19th and 20th centuries. We are now in the age of state captures and corporatocracies and I want to go and live in Mars. Like I always say, even in the midst of political persecution, we should also try to outthink some of these entrenched models of imagining nation-states, , in addition to championing for increased autonomy of counties while killing imperial presidency by changing the structure of government so that a president is not elected through popular vote but through elected representatives from each county.
It is also important not add that the fact that different regions, have at one point entertained the idea, from the North Eastern, to the Coast, to Central at one point, to the loud ethnonationalism in Rift Valley at one time, and the seething sentiment in the Nyanza and Western regions for sometime now, shows that, while some tribes have been bloodied more than others in post-independent Kenya, the cause of this oppression and injustice, has not been tribal groups, but rather the elite group capturing the state, which for a long time has been the group Jomo Kenyatta created to leech the nation. So many people, including Uhuru Kenyatta, are beneficiaries of this system that continues to hold Kenya captive.
Once a while, one one tribe is played against another through propaganda for political expediency, and then state infrastructure is used to profile and persecute certain tribes. The tribes enjoying the privilege of safety at that point are programmed to celebrate the oppression of the other and given crumbs to feel a sense of belonging at the banquet table. Sometimes resources actually flow their way, and development, to psychologically manipulate them that conform and we give you tge cake, rebel and we withdraw the cake, making them perptual slaves to elite manipulation. This cheerleading the oppression of others is what we rage against. But at the root of this is class, and if people could be made to understand this, we’ll be talking about the need of revolution, an act where one class violently overthrows the other, and not secession, because what we need is an equal share at the table. I’m distrustful of Dr. Ndii pigeonholing NASA strongholds, now, with secession calls. If such calls, as I have seen are purely based on tribes, aka the Luo et al, getting their country, one wonders what Dr. Ndii hopes to gain, or he is now the saviour of the Luos (and other unconsulted communities bundled in Country B)?
We have serious historical injustices and political issues, but secession is not the magic bullet. I need more countries in Africa building bigger and stronger political and economic unions.