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Elders order Governor Roba to surrender seat – laughable democracy but let them do it, it is cultural.

Posted by African Press International on August 13, 2016

LUCAS BARASA -1 | Jumamosi, Agosti 13, 2016

Until this week, Ali Roba, the governor of Mandera was a happy man as the clock ticked towards next year’s General Election.

The 42-year-old politician was confident he will be re-elected on the basis of his good performance. In a telephone conversation with the Nation, he reeled off what he called his administration’s major achievements.

With more than 1,000 kilometres of all-weather roads, Mandera town, for the first time since independence, has tarmack roads, 60 new hospitals, 1,500 new teachers that have seen the county for the first time move from the bottom position in national examination rankings.

One of his greatest challenge has been security, especially the danger posed by elements of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab who at one time attacked his convoy in a bid to assassinate him.

But of course security is not a devolved function. It is the job of the national government and no one in Mandera, which shares a long porous border with Somalia, can blame him for that.

His re-election was almost assured until the council of elders erected a major roadblock on the way.

The majority Garre clan elders decreed that 24 politicians elected in the 2013 General Election, including Mr Roba and Senator Billow Kerrow, surrender their seats.

The others are MPs Mohamed Huka (Mandera South), Mohamed Abdi Haji (Banisa), Mohamud Mohamed (Mandera West), Aden Mohamed Noor (Mandera North) and Woman Rep Fathia Mahbub. Some 18 Members of the County Assembly are also affected.

Mr Roba has vowed to defy the decree and run for re-election.

“The population of Mandera knows where I stand for them. It is only that population that will determine my fate as governor through their democratic will,” he said.

His position was on Friday supported by Mr Abdikadir Aden, the MP for Balambala in Garissa who criticised the “negotiated democracy” concept, saying it denies people leaders of their choice.


Mr Aden said it was sad to lose politicians like Mr Kerrow who had demonstrated excellent leadership and earned great respect from Kenyans.

“While I respect his (Kerrow’s) decision to subject himself to the verdict of the clan elders of the Garre community, his departure is a loss to the region, the Muslim community and all the Kenyan people,” he said.

But analysts say opposition to the elders is a futile effort.

In addition to Mr Kerrow, Ms Mahbub and Mr Mohamud have said they will abide by the decision.

Traditionally, the elders play many roles in communities living in northern Kenya ranging from marriage, clan leadership to conflict resolution. But the advent of devolution has seen their political power increase.

It is the desire for equity and peace among clans that is the biggest motivation for elders to call for rotational leadership.

‘’The council ensures internal equity and that the community remains united,’’ Mr Kerrow says.

In the pre-devolution days, inter-clan conflicts in which scores of people were killed and others displaced over natural resources like water and pastures were rife.

But devolution, which saw billions of shillings in financial resources taken to the regions since 2013 is now a major bone of contention.

It is to prevent these deadly clashes that elders in the northern counties of Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo and Garissa devised the rotational system of leadership also known as negotiated democracy.

However, it is in Mandera where the system has been most effective. Indeed, all the current key leaders are products of the system.

“I totally support the decision of the Council which represents the views of the larger community that has expressly stated its preference for a ‘negotiated democracy’ between its various components in order to enhance internal equity, and unity of the community.


“Pursuant to this decision, I shall not be seeking any elective post in Mandera in the coming 2017 election insha’Allah,” Mr Kerrow said.

And speaking at Banisa on Thursday, Mr Mohamud said going against the elders would be dishonest as the issue was agreed on by the community in 2011.

The two-term MP was seen as a potential governor had the elders picked on his clan for the top job. However, his Quranyua sub-clan missed the governor’s position and it now means he will retire from politics unless the clan forwards his name again to elders to defend his parliamentary seat.

Mr Mohamud, an engineer and career civil servant, was one of the brains behind the rotational leadership system.

But Mr Roba says the elders should look at other factors like performance before shutting him out.

But many say his resistance will ultimately be futile.

Even Mr Roba himself was a beneficiary of their power. Before 2013, he was a little-known pilot operating an aviation firm from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. His endorsement by the elders propelled him to the governor’s position.

“The governor knows the process works because in 2013 he was picked out of nowhere ahead of very prominent people. But one of them decided not to quit and ran against the governor but lost. Mr Roba knows very well to challenge this process would be futile,’’ Mr Kerrow says.

Mr Abdikadir Mohamed, a brilliant lawyer whose achievements include chairing the constitutional oversight commission during his term in Parliament, lost his Mandera North seat when the elders told him not to run. He is now President Uhuru Kenyatta’s advisor on constitutional affairs.

“The elders’ decision cannot be wished away because they act in the interest of the clans’ future survival,” a top politician in the region who requested not to be named as the elders are to make a decision on his candidacy ‘soon’, said.

He said: “As for today, the elders’ decision is 100 per cent binding. There can be discontent and disappointment but it is unlikely for one to get elected without their blessing”.

Additional reporting by Abdimalik Hajir

Nation news Kenya


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