An ongoing standoff in Kenya’s Coast province between the central government and the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) could make the region a flashpoint for next year’s elections.
Formed in 1999 to address the region’s marginalization, the MRC was designated by the government as an organized criminal group in 2010. Claiming this action unconstitutional, the MRC filed a case with the High Court in Mombasa, which last month ruled in the MRC’s favor. Nevertheless, the MRC has maintained its threats to boycott and otherwise disrupt Kenya’s March 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections if its demands are not met.
The polls will be the first since disputed elections in December 2007 led to ethnically motivated violence that resulted in more than 1,200 deaths and 600,000 displaced persons. Moreover, as the first polls under Kenya’s 2010 constitution (.pdf), the elections will help test whether or not the promise of devolution enshrined in the new constitution provides the necessary mechanisms to remedy political marginalization and economic inequality.