Machage’s hate speech case to go to trial
By Wahome Thuku
Former Assistant Minister Wilfred Machage has a case to answer over alleged hate speech. Nairobi Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembei put Machage, Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi, and Christine Nyaguthie Miller on their defence on Tuesday.
They will now defend themselves on November 9, but can opt to remain silent and wait for the final determination of the case.
The three were arraigned in court in June, last year, charged under the National Cohesion and Integration Act, which Parliament enacted in December 2008 to curb ethnic hatred. Machage faces four counts and Kapondi one count of uttering hate speech.
The charges arose from speeches they made during the launch of the ‘No’ secretariat (a forum to campaign against the passing of the Constitution). Machage is accused of having made four Kiswahili statements targeting the Maasai, Kikuyu and the Luo, while Kapondi allegedly threatened that communities in Trans Nzoia and Bungoma would be kicked out if the Constitution was passed.
Mrs Miller, the widow of former Chief Justice Cecil Miller, is said to have warned supporters of the ‘Yes’ vote against venturing into Central Province.
Earlier this year, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), who initiated the case, asked the three to tender an apology directly to Kenyans through the media after which the charges would be withdrawn.
"The NCIC is more interested in cohesion and integration than prosecution," said NCIC vice-chairperson Mary Onyango.
"Our business is not to fill courts but to facilitate harmony among all the people."
But the three turned down the offer and the State decided to proceed with the trial to conclusion.
The matter has since been taken over by Senior State counsel Emily Kamau from the police prosecution wing and four witnesses have testified.
Under the National Cohesion and Integration Act, making a hate speech that stirs ethnic hatred attracts a maximum Sh1 million fine, or three years in jail, or both. Incitement to violence attracts five years imprisonment without the option of a fine.
The four counts against Machage attract a fine of up to Sh4 million or 12 years in jail. If Machage and Kapondi are convicted, it would deal a devastating blow to their political careers.
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