Early this month, Raila Odinga called on Kenyans from Mandera, Isiolo, Samburu, Kajiado and elsewhere in the country to arm themselves with spears, arrows and other weapons and come to Nairobi to force the immediate former IEBC boss Issack Hassan and his team out of office.
This was at a political rally in Narok attended by thousands and covered by many media houses.
Following a public storm over the remarks, Raila explained the weapons he was calling for were “not really going to be used for violence but are carried as a symbol by the Maasais”.
Meanwhile, my good friend Moses Kuria, the MP for Gatundu South, is facing hate speech charges after he allegedly posted hateful comments on a Facebook account associated with him. It is alleged that in 2014, Kuria claimed that those throwing grenades in Nairobi were ‘Odhiambos’ not ‘Somalis’. When he was asked to explain what he meant in that post, he explained that ‘Odhiambos’ is a family name not a community identity — so he was not attacking a community, which is what would make his comments hate speech. However, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kuria’s words were “wisely chosen and crafted to target certain communities”.
The DPP’s office also said the words were crafted “by someone who is skilled in the art of words to incite the Somali, the Kikuyu and the Luo communities”. The DPP also argued that the words were ‘crafted’ to achieve a certain objective. So I ask myself, were the words Raila used in Narok not ‘wisely chosen and crafted to target certain communities’? Were the statements not going to ‘incite the Masaais, the Somalis, the Boranas and the Samburus? Can we define Raila’s subsequent explanation that he was calling for ‘ceremonial spears and other weapons’ as the kind of statement that someone ‘who is skilled in the art of words’ would make? Is Raila skilled in ‘the art of words?’ Like me, most of you probably answered a loud Yes! to each of those questions.
“Arrest Raila Odinga or get him to the DCI. He should and must tell the country what he meant and why he is threatening with violence,” digital and innovations director at State House Dennis Itumbi demanded.
However, government spokesman Eric Kiraithe said Raila made the inflammatory remarks so that he can be arrested and then accuse the state of intimidating the opposition. When the DPP was taken to task for not acting on the opposition chief, he said there was no complainant. But Arnold Maliba, Kendagor Obadiah and George Thuku - under the auspices of the ‘Leadership Factory Institute — filed a complaint against Raila on October 5.
The irony is that the reason why Kenya introduced laws against hate speech was because Raila himself spearheaded an ethnic-laced presidential campaign 10 years ago. More than 1,000 Kenyans died, hundreds of thousands were displaced and billions of shillings property destroyed as a result. Our national fabric is still struggling to reconstitute since then. Now, the same Raila has been given a free-pass to incite communities against government officers with an assurance, from none other than the government itself, that he will not face any charges because it is afraid of being accused of attacking the opposition. Must be why in August this year, Raila had the audacity to ask, “What is this animal called hate speech? It has not been defined and we would like to know what it means.”
The government is trying to sell us the ridiculous argument that the politician with the greatest capacity to use hate speech to cause inter-ethnic conflict is Moses Kuria, not Raila Odinga.