INCITEMENT

Politicians on hate speech overdrive as NCIC promises action

The main protagonists have been MPs from Jubilee and ODM Party.

In Summary

• Kenyans have been watching in disbelief as legislators tear into each other using foul language and making no apologies.

•  Even with the title 'Honourable', legislators have been hurling insults at rivals and some even going to the extent of inciting supporters against each other.

NCIC Chief Executive Officer Hassan Mohamed during a press briefing in Nairobi on May 21.
DANGEROUS TREND: NCIC Chief Executive Officer Hassan Mohamed during a press briefing in Nairobi on May 21.
Image: ENOS TECHE

They are vile, vulgar, coarse, boorish, swinish and they insult, defame and incite.

Their mouths should be washed out with soap, but that's too good for 'Honourable' lawmakers in 'august' houses countryside.

As usual, they will get away with it and spew more vitriol — without a bulldog to punish them, they'll perhaps a gentle rap on the knuckles for savagely tearing at the country's fabric. But then voters deserve those they elected.  

 

The by-election in Kibra and the much-awaited report of the Building Bridges Initiative have kindled political temperatures across the country.

And as politicians campaigned for their candidates in Kibra or declare their stand on BBI, they returned to their shameful ways of sending ugly messages to their opponents.

Kenyans have been watching in disbelief as legislators tear into each other using foul language and making no apologies.

 

Legislators have been hurling insults at rivals and some even inciting supporters against each other.

The main protagonists have been MPs from the ruling Jubilee Party and their ODM counterparts.

Disgusted by this trend, National Cohesion and Integration Commission CEO Hassan Mohamed promised action, saying Kenya cannot be taken back to the days that preceded the 2007 elections.

“We are putting our heads together to see how we can deal with this very dangerous trend,” he said.

 

Mohamed promised to go after leaders whose remarks border on hate speech or those whose statements could incite people or communities against each other.

“Quite a number have been making defamatory statements and that does not fall within our mandate,” he explained.  

Defamation is the act of harming someone's reputation by saying or writing bad things about them.

 

Hate speech, on the other hand, is speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of protected attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Even as he pledges action, a new team of commissioners will be joining him after Parliament approved their nomination on Thursday.

The new team headed by Reverend Samuel Kobia takes over from former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo, who had been at the commission's helm since 2014.

Other members of the commission are Samuel Kona, former Rangwe MP Phillip Okundi, Peris Nyutu, former Madera East MP Abdulaziz Ali Farah, former Nairobi Finance CEC Danvas Makori, Fatuma Tabwara and former Vihiga Woman Representative Dorcas Kedogo.

They are expected to facilitate and promote equal opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence of persons of different ethnic and racial communities and advise the government on harmony.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and former Embakasi MP Irshad Sumra have already appeared before the NCIC over alleged incitement in Kibra.

“We had a lengthy conversation with the two and they promised to be careful with what they say in rallies or any other social gathering. I have not heard anything from them after that discussion,” Mohamed said.

The NCIC will soon call a press conference and warn against the trend. But will stern words and lofty ideals stem the language of hatred and the gutter?

“We want to warn politicians that they will be held responsible for their reckless remarks,” Mohamed said.

National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale told his colleagues to "watch their tongues when criticising their opponents."

“When you insult me, it might not go down very well with my supporters. It is important to know that every leader has his/her supporters and insulting them would mean insulting the masses,” he said.

While asking the new NCIC team to live up to expectations, Duale said careless remarks by MPs could incite people against each other.

His Minority counterpart John Mbadi criticised the outgoing commissioners, saying they did not live up to their calling. “We did not see any action. They just kept lamenting, no action from them. We expect the new team to do far better,” he urged.

Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito said leaders should refrain from using a language that incites.

“Politics should be a competition of ideas. Go to the people and tell them what you want to do for them. Don’t insult rivals or tell your supporters to attack them when they come to sell their ideas,” he explained.

Kizito further said politicians who have lately made inciting remarks should do the right thing and apologise to Kenyans.

Bishop Mark Kariuki of the Deliverance Church of Kenya said politicians should remember that Kenya belongs to 47 million people and not just them.

“Politicians should tone down and remember that they should focus on developing the country and not attacking each other,” he stated.

He advised them to wait for the report of BBI to be made public and use appropriate channels to air their grievances if necessary.

“They should remember that they are elected leaders and are expected to use good language. Why do they want to be just attacking one another?” he asked.

Garissa Woman Representative Anab Subow has been on the spot for calling Opposition leader Raila Odinga "uncircumcised". In a video that went viral, Subow is heard referring to Raila as a "devil who is not circumcised and not getting old".

The NCIC, however, said those remarks would be categorised as defamation and not hate speech.

Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru, on the other hand, is clearly not pleased with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s support for BBI. Waruguru mocked Waiguru for not conceiving since her wedding because of concentrating on BBI.

Kapaseret MP Oscar Sudi called Raila a "devil worshiper" soon after Jubilee lost the Kibra by-election.

He said Raila used crooked ways to make sure the Kalenjin, the Kikuyu, the Kamba and the Luhya did not vote for their favourite candidates.

The NCIC is intended to address and reduce inter-ethnic conflicts. The Commission was created by the National Cohesion and Integration Act following the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

It is mandated to investigate complaints of discrimination and make recommendations to the Attorney General, Human Rights Commission or other authorities  on remedial measures to be taken where such complaints are valid.