Marginalization Dynamics and their Implications on National Cohesion in Kenya: Case of Mombasa County
Oyombra, Ochieng’ George
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Peaceful co-existences among various groups in the society is paramount for wellbeing and development. Regional, ethnic and religious inequalities and imbalances have increasingly become sources of tensions and social conflicts in many parts of the world. Marginalization, real or perceived, of certain groups and regions based on their ethnic background, place of origin, religious creed or any other distinctions, breeds hatred, erodes trust, undermines national development and may ultimately escalate into open hostilities thereby undermining national cohesion. The main objective of this study was, thus, to examine the marginalization dynamics and implications on national cohesion in Kenya with a focus on Mombasa County. The specific objectives of the study were to assess how the various communities in Mombasa County conceptualized marginalization; examine the socio-economic indicators of marginalization and their implications on national cohesion; analyse the cultural indicators of marginalization and how they are likely to impede on national cohesion; and to evaluate the implications of political marginalization on national cohesion. The study was carried out in Mombasa County, Kenya. Two theories guided the study: the Relative Deprivation Theory and the Framing Theory. While the Relative Deprivation Theory explains how inequalities among groups and regions are likely to cause conflict and undermine national cohesion in the society, the Framing Theory explains how the societal elites and/or media outlets construct frames around which a narrative is created for group mobilization to violence. The study adopted phenomenological research design using qualitative approach. Non-probability sampling techniques particularly purposive, stratified purposive and snowball techniques were used to obtain study participants from the six sub-counties that form Mombasa County. A total of 65 interviews, 19 Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and 7 Key Informants (KII) were conducted. Both primary and secondary sources of data were used in the study. The data collection instruments were semi-structured interview guides and F G D guides. Data collection techniques included interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions. Data was analysed through critical discourse analysis and presented using narratives and verbatim quotations. The study revealed that marginalization of Mombasa County was both a reality and a perception. This could explain the tensions and restlessness that sometimes characterize the relationship between the locals and upcountry immigrants in Mombasa County. Further, the study revealed that even though marginalization was a key concern for Mombasa residents, resentments and tensions that threaten national cohesion are also as a result of relative privilege and reference to some treaties signed during colonial period. The study recommends, among others, equitable sharing of state resources, more decentralization of authority and resources, and enhanced hegemonial exchange in political leadership.