By Standard Team
Assistant Minister Ferdinand Waititu’s loose tongue not only landed him in trouble with police and his political godfathers, but also risked the lives of innocent members of his community in Maasailand.
The case of Waititu, a belligerent and roguish politician who has said on live television he does not mind joining his supporters as he has done before in stone-throwing, would be a strenuous test on Kenya’s laws against hate speech.
This is especially as a subdued Waititu, having woken up to the horror and bloodletting his statements had brought and the prospect it might be followed by retaliatory attacks, owned up on the floor of the House and apologised to the Maasai community claiming his abusive and demeaning statements did not target them.
As a round of condemnation greeted Waititu’s utterances, hundreds of Maasai members clad in their traditional regalia marched through the streets of Nairobi condemning the Water Assistant Minister and demanding for his arrest.
Waititu was target of furious debate both in Parliament, where Heritage minister William ole Ntimama demanded his arrest and warned the Maasai were asking why they were being derided and no arrests had been made. Social Internet sites, too, were unrelenting. The national outcry was loud and clear: Waititu should be prosecuted.
However, Waititu’s apology could also have been triggered by reports that his statement had upset his new party leader Uhuru Kenyatta, to the point he issued a hard-hitting statement criticising his divisive speech.
Uhuru’s party, The National Alliance, just won the Kajiado North parliamentary seat, and Waititu’s statement was reportedly being viewed as a backhanded slap on the electorate there, and this incensed Uhuru’s group.
It is also believed that though Waititu is a junior member of Government, his statement nonetheless reflected badly on Government and to assuage national anger, he must have been forced to apologise to defuse the rising tension and to also save himself from further embarrassment. But nonetheless, the police were relentlessly on his pursuit.
So much for a loose tongue, the Embakasi MP was last evening holed up in Parliament, scared to venture out. Police were on the prowl with guns and handcuffs, waiting to arrest him following the orders of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
National Intelligence Service, it was revealed to The Standard, warned the police that Waitutu’s inflammatory and hateful statements against the Maasai community in his constituency might spark retaliatory attacks against his Kikuyu community in areas like Narok.
It also warned the statement may be exploited by people out to foment ethic tension.
So serious was the security scare caused by the killing of two Maasai private guards in cold blood following his orders to his supporters to cleanse his constituency of them.
He claimed some of them were thieves, murderers, and had no identity cards, a claim he later took to Parliament, where before he was stopped by acting Speaker, he had called them non-Kenyans.
But even if this unsubstantiated and outrageous claims were true, the question would still be asked if Waititu was right to order their extermination.
Waititu, who has escaped the wrath of the law because of his dalliance with political hooliganism, is in hot soup for his speech in Kayole following riots sparked by the killing of a suspected robber, an incident he blamed on Maasai guards, whose eviction he ordered.
As supporters were cheering him, a policeman of high rank in uniform stood behind him, little did Waititu know the price he would pay for his tongue. The price began with sweaty and erratic self-defence in Parliament and inability to get out and straight into the hands of the police.
New Internal Security Minister, Katoo ole Metito, and Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, ordered his immediate arrest.
Mr Ntimama, while issuing a personal statement in Parliament, said the Embakasi MP had ordered his followers to kill Maasais in the constituency.
“It came out so clearly what he told locals on Monday,” said Ntimama. “Police have not arrested anybody or stopped the situation from getting any worse. You would say they were part of the conspiracy,” he added.
Defence Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaiserry called for the arrest and sacking of Waititu, saying the remarks were unfortunate and did not augur well, especially at a time the country was headed to elections.
“Mr Waititu belongs in jail ... in fact he should have been removed from the Cabinet a long time ago. What we have in this country is where wrong people occupy leadership positions,” he told journalists at Parliament Buildings Media Centre.
Nkaiserry said it was unfortunate to have a leader utter such words, saying Waititu has on many occasions behaved in an unruly manner that did not befit the status of a leader and had always gone scot-free.
He criticised the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Commissioner of Police for failing to arrest the Embakasi MP yet he spoke in the presence of law enforcers.
Waititu has expressed interest in running for Nairobi County governor, but Nkaiserry said his misdemeanor would be used against him.
Last year Waititu was picked up by police during a demonstration to protest the demolition of the Uhuru open-air market in Nairobi. He had gone to the scene after receiving calls from stall owners that the market was being demolished. Once there he ordered the traders to demolish a perimeter wall. He was arrested and taken to the Jogoo Police Station to record a statement.
Early this year, Waititu was arrested for a charge dating back two years ago where he was accused of inciting his constituents to oppose evictions from KPA slum in Embakasi in December 2010.
Waititu, who was charged alongside one Patrick Mulili, denied the charge and was released on a cash bail of Sh100,000. The matter is still pending before court.
He was arrested again in May after he tried to stop yet another demolition of houses built on a road reserve in his Embakasi constituency.
Led by AFC Leopards Chairman Alex ole Magelo, the Maasai lobby group leading the demonstrations said it was the constitutional and natural right for every Kenyan to live where he or she deems safe. “Waititu should know this is an electioneering period and such untimely sentiments are likely to breach peaceful coexistence. Our demand as the Maa group is that President Kibaki must sack Waititu as an assistant minister, within 36 hours,” said Kenya Maa Students Association official Raphael Olemaleto.
The lobby group said that Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city that belongs to all Kenyans.
The Maa group also wants Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta to kick such people who are insensitive and harbour tribal tendencies out of his TNA party, if he wants support from the Maasai.