One killed as Kenya police battle separatist group
4/24/2012 5:30:01 PM -
MOMBASA, Kenya (AFP) - One person was killed Tuesday in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa as police blocked members of an outlawed group from entering a courthouse.
More than 100 members of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) -- a group seeking the secession of the coastal region -- were stopped from reaching the court to hear a case in which they are challenging the ban against them.
Several protesters were arrested and one died after being hit by a stone, police said.
In an address to the nation Tuesday, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki rejected the group's separatist calls.
"Kenya is one nation, and any attempt to call for secession should be rejected and shall not be tolerated," he said. "Specifically, the coast region has been part of, and is part of, and will remain part of the Republic of Kenya."
The MRC claims that the predominantly Muslim Mombasa region is not part of Kenya while arguing that it has been neglected by the central government.
The group's lawyer, Steven Kithi, told court that the MRC was not a criminal group as declared by the government.
"MRC advocates for secession. That does not mean it is an organised criminal group," Kithi said.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has called for dialogue with the group, this week said the MRC must denounce its separatist claims before talks.
Yusuf Lule, an official with the Muslim Human Rights group, condemned the clampdown on the MRC.
"There is freedom of gathering, and police should not disperse innocent Kenyans," Lule said.