Conflict between Kambas and Taitas brewing

There’s growing tension between the Kamba and Taita ethnic groups following a dispute at the highway township of Mtito Andei. Politicians from Coast Province are exploiting the issue to whip up nationalist sentiment while threatening to secede from the rest of Kenya.

Image showing the source of the border conflict between Makueni and Taita Taveta County Councils. Satellite image by Google Maps

Image showing the source of the border conflict between Makueni and Taita Taveta County Councils. Satellite image by Google Maps

It began as nothing more than a storm in a tea cup, centred around a small highway township by the name of Mtito Andei. For many years, the County Councils of Makueni and Taita Taveta have quarrelled over the provincial border that runs either through or alongside the town.

Taita Taveta County Council puts the border at the Mtito Andei River, which means that Mtito Andei town should be under the jurisdiction of Taita District of Coast Province. On its part, Makueni County Council says the provincial border lies outside the township on the way to Mombasa. Makueni County Council therefore puts Mtito Andei township firmly in Eastern Province.

Taita leaders say that during President Jomo Kenyatta’s administration, they used to stand at the Mtito Andei River to welcome the presidential convoy as it drove from Nairobi to Mombasa (See above map). This, they say, is clear evidence that the border between Coast and Eastern lies at the river. The location of the Mtito Andei State Lodge has also added to the controversy.

The root of the dispute between Makueni and Taita Taveta is the collection of revenue from highway businesses at Mtito Andei. The township is located halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa, making it an ideal resting place for truck drivers, tourists and long distance buses. The town’s economy is based on restaurants, lodging houses, bars and petrol stations.

At the moment, control of Mtito Andei and its revenues lies with the Makueni County Council. Taita Taveta Council will find it very difficult to argue its case, considering that 95% of Mtito Andei’s inhabitants are Kamba and prefer living under Makueni County Council rather than Taita Taveta. Besides, the vast Tsavo National Park has created a huge barrier between Mtito Andei and the rest of Taita District, with the nearest Taita villages located at the Taita Hills almost 100km away.

Early this year, Makueni County Council officials worsened tensions by placing a border sign at the Tsavo River bridge, thereby pushing the provincial boundaries 50 kilometres deep into Coast Province. The border sign has since been defaced by persons believed to be allied to the Taita side.

The border dispute has attracted the attention of politicians at the national scene. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was at Mtito Andei recently and called for peace. He did not make any concrete statement over the issue but told the local people to await the government’s verdict.

Tourism Minister Najib Balala last week led other legislators from Coast in a scathing attack of the government over this and other issues. Balala claimed that Coast Province had deliberately been left poor and underdeveloped despite contributing to the national economy through the tourism industry and the Port of Mombasa. Balala and his allies accused the government of neglecting the Coastal tribes especially with regards to appointments to top government positions. They pointed at the Mtito Andei dispute as an example of “oppression of the Coast by up-country tribes.”

The group vowed to secede Coast Province from the rest of Kenya in order to keep tourism and port funds to develop the region. They said they will start a movement to that effect. Though these are treasonable words, there is little the government can do against Balala without whipping up ethnic animosity. The situation is complicated because Balala and his group are members of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM party.

Balala was close to Raila in the run-up to the 2007 elections, but of late, the two do not see eye-to-eye. Balala has maintained a low profile in the past year as he seethes with anger over what he sees as Raila’s betrayal. Balala believes that Raila is sponsoring opponents to challenge him for the Mvita Parliamentary seat in 2012. Balala sees himself as a senior player in Coast politics and has not been happy with Raila’s ties to East African Co-operation Minister Amason Kingi Jeffah (MP for Magarini) and Ali Hassan Joho of Kisauni.

Najib Balala is among those mentioned in the Waki Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence. He is accused of paying youths Shs300 per day (US$4) to engage in looting and ethnic clashes in Mombasa. It was Balala who made the infamous “we will confine them to Lesotho” remarks against the Kikuyu tribe. By threatening to confine the Kikuyu to a Lesotho-like enclave, Balala was seen as supporting the forceful eviction of the Kikuyu from wherever they had settled, including Coast Province.

The Mtito Andei issue has given Balala a fresh lifeline to revive his waning popularity by doing what he does best: inciting ethnic hatred.

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17 Responses

  1. “Politicians from Coast Province are exploiting the issue to whip up nationalist sentiment while threatening to secede from the rest of Kenya.”

    Oh yes, here is another one to keep the populace occupied while the “leaders” continue to gorge themselves.
    Woe be unto the one who is persuaded to go and chop his neighbour’s head off, as many did in 2007/2008.

  2. I do not understand why they have not yet been charged with treason, if this was happening in another functioning country this guys would be in prison. The Arabs run the show selling africans like cattle the coast was ruled by the Arabs for the bennefit of the Arabs not africans, then they all got concured by the brits and now we have kenya they must understand that they will always be part of kenya and we will never go back to the past for balala you better secede now before we secede you to the icc( but all historical injustices must be corrected for a better kenya to develop and the like of balala will have no place

  3. The political intrigues on to whether mtito andei is in taita or makueni is neither here nor there and kenyans should know better .

    the coast politicians must find a better agenda to sell to their subjects if they want to sustain their supremacy but not puting them on collision with their historic and traditional neighbours.

    The people of taita should know better , there is no substance in claiming your neighbours land just because you feel your federal feelings must be accomodated .

    i think we should just face the referandum squarely and put this country on a new chapter. What the coast politicians are proving to us as balala once said , there is actually no vision or hope in his table or was it bench line up.

    • Taita-Taveta county is part of Coast province. If Provincial boundary has not changed,then what makes anyone intelligent or otherwise belabour their brains to think that Taita boundary does not extend to Mtito Andei river adjacent to the abandoned state lodge. Coast province will not be reduced a foot less.

  4. tone down & get to the real issue-it’s common knowledge, most administrative borders are marked by natural & permanent features like rivers and the railway line. coast fellows have a point regardless of the dominant tribe in that town. we are all kenyans & children of G-d

  5. Sisi kama wataita,Wapwani tumenyanyaswa tokea enzi za kenyatta.
    Sehemu ya arthi yetu ilitwaliwa na familia yake,kwa mfano Ziwani Farm Taveta.Hali hii imepelekea sisi kuwa walowezi ardhini mwetu.
    Inakera hata zaidi kuona kuwa serikali imetubeua maendeleo hamna,
    barabara hatujengewi (kwa mfano barasteni kuu ya Taita Taveta inayotuunganisha na Tanzania).
    Sasa hivi wakamba wanasingizia mtito Andei kuwa yao na serikali kupitia Kalonzo inashiriki uongo huu.Japo tumestaarabika haimaanishi
    kuwa tu wanyonge hivyo basi tutapambana.

  6. As coasterians we shall always rise up for the occassion.At no time shall we let our selves down,at no time shall we be made inferior.
    The akamba have no audacity to oppress the TAITA (DAWIDA)
    neither does kalonzo has the mandate to do so.
    If we are Kenyans then we must be respected just like other fellow
    countrymen.
    Unfortunately we`ve been subordinated since 1963.Ever since time
    imemorial we`ve been percieved as lesser humanbeings.
    We only see development elsewhere our people don`t know how
    it looks like thus automatically they know not how it feels..
    I still wonder whether we are Kenya…

    Our roads and the entire infrastructure are in a sorry state and to
    add insults into injuries the akamba are taking us for granted.

    Thus my people and I have every reason to resist subjugation
    because they have what it takes to defend everything that is COASTERIC in nature.

    Thus I fully support them in all their endeavuors.
    You better recognise!!

    However,it ought not be deleted in your minds that I support harmony
    and peacefull coexistence among all Kenyans not the opposite.
    But its a two way thing we`ll not be confronted and then we play it cool
    we shall endeavour to loose our cool whenever belittled..

    As the adage states that `when confronted or beaten you don`t sit back you hit back…

  7. Even as the name suggests…..Mtito Andei is definately Eastern. Mimi ni mpwani lakini acheni watu wa Mtito peke yao. We have a lot of land we haven’t exploited yet..Acheni tamaa

  8. No reason to fuel tribal hatred for nothing

  9. Since 70s I used to go to mombasa and i would find a big signbord Paided Kwaheri Machakos Cpunty Council at Savo River if the Position where the post was or is will move is when we will move If savo river will move north the Akamba will move with it since we sit on it, but if it remains there we will still remain. Politician shoud stop Incite Kenyans

  10. Willy Mkoji
    Kamba people should remember that the Kwaheri / and Karibu tena banner hang conspicuously as you cross the last river as you enter Mtito from nairobi and the first river you cross from Mtito on your way to nairobi. It is also the point the coast provincial commissioners would meet to welcome president kenyatta to the coast and also same point the eastern pc’s would meet to welcome the president to eastern province and then to nairobi. Tsavo river where a defaced so called boundary sign board is, has never been and will be where coast province ends. We have had enough of this impunity.

  11. kusingizia umiliki wa Mtito-Andei kutachochea chuki! mji huu unamilikiwa na Wakamba.Balala na wengine kutoka pwani wasitumie siasa mbaya kujitafutia riziki! Wasome Katiba waelewe ni vipi mipaka ya Magatuzi inavyoweza kubadilishwa!

  12. Should any Learned Taita Tell me Whats the meaning of “MUTITU WA NDEI?” (the direct translation of Mtito Andei) . And another one tell me the meaning of “SAVU” (Tsavo). . . You cant own something you aint able even to pronounce. Let alone knowing its meaning.

  13. the boundary between taita and makueni is at R.Tsavo. 99% of mutitu wa ndei residents r kambas and MUST be in MAKUENI.

  14. Mtito Andei is Kao land full stop

  15. Our land or we go to war and your people should leave Coast…..

  16. It’s true, Mtito Andei was part of Taita until some pple thought it wise to overpopulate and over stretch their resources.

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