Kenya court lifts ban on independence group

[JURIST] A Kenyan court on Wednesday lifted the ban on a group that campaigns for the independence of a coastal strip surrounding the city of Mombasa. The three judges for the country's High Court [official website] held [Reuters report] that there is no evidence demonstrating the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) [Facebook page], which was outlawed by the government in 2010 along with 33 other entities for being organized criminal groups, engaged in any criminal activity. In addition, the court stated that the MRC has the right to pursue political opinions that call for secession if conducted in a fair and democratic manner. Judge Francis Tuiyot stated that the court is not endorsing secession but that the political right to do so should be granted to the MRC. The government is likely to appeal the decision. Attorney General Githu Muigai stated that any group challenging the constitutional authority of the country cannot enjoy the protection guaranteed by the constitution. There is a concern that the recent decision could result in violence amid a recent killing [BBC report] of a protester in April. The government has held its stance not to negotiate with the group while the MRC chairman announced that the group will disrupt the upcoming election in March 2013 if the government does not grant the independence demand.

It is still unclear whether the recent decision and the possible violence that could arise out of it would have detrimental effects on the scheduled election in 2013. In addition, almost simultaneously to the election the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] will start its trial for two Kenyan cases stemming from violence following the 2007 elections. The ICC set the trial date [JURIST report] for next April, a month after the election. The trial of former Kenyan minister William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang [case materials] will begin [decision, PDF] on April 10, 2013, while the trial of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former civil service chief Francis Muthaura [case materials] is to begin [decision, PDF] on April 11, 2013. Last month the ICC expressed its desire to start the two Kenyan trials simultaneously [JURIST report] to avoid any appearance of bias in the March 2013 presidential election. Ruto is considered a leading candidate in the election which will take place on March 4, 2013.

 

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