The North Remembers (part 1/4)


In spite of a report prepared by a commission in 1962 showing that 88% of the inhabitants of the Northern Frontier District wanted to be part of the Somali Republic, Britain went against the people’s wishes. On March 8th 1963, the North Eastern Region was carved out of the Northern Frontier District and given to Kenya and the Somali Republic as a response severed diplomatic relations with Britain.

The Kenyan government was not willing to give up the region and this led to immediate protests in the region and a declaration of a state of emergency. There was dissent over the next few years with both political dissent through the Northern Province Peoples Progressive Party (NPPPP) and violent dissent whose members were later labeled the “Shifta”

The government set up repressive measures aimed at curbing it including curfews and military intervention over the years which led to scores of massacres and human rights violations over decades.

The government wanted to keep the region by force but at an arm’s length without developing it or treating residents like citizens. Kenyans of Somali origin were Kenyan by legally enforced boundaries but not Kenyan enough to be treated like human beings.

The series explore the creation and negotiation of citizenship and the ongoing marginalisation that’s manifested itself through armed force, social and economic measures.

November 13th  1963.
There was tension between the Kenyan and Somalia territory over border disputes.President Kenyatta firmly insisted that the Northern Frontier was in Kenya before Kenya’s Independence and afterwards and stated his intent to keep the territory by any means possible. Mogadishu radio had been deemed to be producing inciteful content and it sparked diplomatic battles.
March 28th 1963
Alex Kholkholle, the Vice President of the Northern Province People’s Progressive Party was detained by Police and he was served with a restriction order and moved to Kwale.

Kholkholle supported the secession of the Northern Frontier District from Kenya and he was declared a threat to national security.
He was part of the team which went to London after the Lancaster House talks and was also one of the leaders who called for a meeting in the region where 34 area chiefs tendered their resignations.
Feb 26th 1963
The Somali government suspected that there were sinister motives behind “Operation Sharp Panga”which was a military exercise taking place near the Kenya -Somalia border. The Somali government withdrew their Ambassador to Britain for consultation and noted that exercises like these were not just exercise especially not with 4,200 troops taking part in it.
It was one of the biggest military exercises ever carried out by the British Military in East Africa and it included the Royal Air Force, the Kenyan Police and British troops from Cyprus and Aden. The operation was meant to acclimatise the troops to the harsh conditions in the region in semi-desert conditions and to give them experience in possible war settings.
May 25th 1963
4 people were killed and 26 hurt when Kenyan Somalis attempted to disrupt voting in Isiolo during the national election.
They used spears, stones and slings and when the police failed to contain them, the police rifle squad were called in and they opened fire killing three people on the spot and the rioters retreated. 17 police were injured in the melee.
The national election had 2.66 million voters countrywide choosing between 254 candidates for the 94 seats in the house of representatives.
March 13th 1964
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Joseph Murumbi vowed that the government had taken steps to  deal with the Shifta in Lamu and Tana River Districts.
“The difficulty confronting the government is that we are fighting against Shifta who appear to be ordinary people though they are armed.
It would not be practical to shoot all Somali suspects”

Photo Credits: Awjama Cultural Centre and the Heinrich Boll Foundation

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