Why NCIC is pushing for 10 counties to change names

Ten counties named after ethnic groups could have their names changed should plans by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) succeed.

The counties are Meru, TharakaNithi, Nandi, Kisii, Turkana, Embu, Samburu, Taita-Taveta, West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet.

This move, the NCIC says, will eliminate potential discrimination of people coming from minor ethnic groups who live in these counties. The commission said that this will ensure every Kenyan feels welcome and safe regardless of his/her ethnic background while staying in any part of the country.

Speaking during the release of a report on the state of peace and cohesion in the country on May 27, NCIC chairperson, Reverend Samuel Kobia, said they want to table a motion in Parliament to have the names of the 10 counties changed.

“NCIC shall advocate for tabling of a motion in Parliament for renaming counties that are identified to specific ethnic groups to eliminate potential discrimination along ethnic lines…we are committed to ensuring Kenya remains a peaceful society and that the gains made over the last many years are solidified,” he said. The commission said that one of the biggest challenges to peace and cohesion in Kenya is devolution and boundary disputes. The NCIC estimates that 33 out of the 47 counties have boundary disputes. It said that these conflicts are made worse by the fact that most counties were created along ethnic lines, making boundary conflict easily translate to ethnic conflict.

The NCIC said that it is working on ways to ensure that devolution, which was established to ensure equitable development in all parts of the country, does not trigger ethnic conflicts.

Rev Kobia said lack of proper demarcation of boundaries continues to threaten peace and cohesion in various parts of the country and the NCIC is working with the National Survey of Kenya to clearly mark all counties’ boundaries.

The commission has mapped out boundary disputes between the following counties; Kericho-Kisumu, Isiolo-Meru, Turkana-Baringo- West Pokot, Kitui-Tana River, Makueni-Taita-Taveta, Kisii-Nyamira, Kwale-Kilifi, Kisumu-Nandi, Kisumu-Vihiga and Migori-Narok.

“These boundaries continue to be a source of division, exclusion and discriminative, heightening ethnic animosity. We have continued to ensure that communities along the boundaries coexist peacefully through continuous dialogue among various stakeholders in the regions,” the NCIC boss said. Other than conflict over counties’ borders, the commission pointed out that hate speech and ethnic contempt, still poses a threat to peaceful coexistence in Kenya. It also cautioned Kenyans to be alert when consuming news from social media which it said easily misinforms and disinforms the public, creating unnecessary tension through publication of spurious narratives.

NCIC has flagged 44 cases on discrimination, 24 on incitement, six on hate speech, 93 on misinformation and 68 cases on disinformation from social media platforms. From other platforms, the commission has received a further 67 cases of hate speech out of which 43 are under investigation, two are before court, 13 have been concluded and 13 others conciliated as provided for by the constitution.

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