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Senior official suspended, charged over slur on President Uhuru Kenyatta

BY WILLIS OKETCH

LAMU, KENYA:  A senior civil servant in Lamu County has been arrested by police for allegedly insulting President Uhuru Kenyatta during a debate.

The official, who has since been suspended from the Forest department, has been charged in a Lamu court. However, the wording of the charge is not clear.

He is accused of uttering the alleged insult inside a popular bar in Lamu West two months ago. The charges were pressed later.

Scanty details

Details of the arrest and charges remain scanty and it is not clear when the officer was arrested and suspended, although the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has confirmed that Donald Avude is facing a court charge.

Yesterday, Lamu County Police Commander Leonard Omolo confirmed that the forest official was arrested following the incident.

Mr Avude is the Ecosystems Conservator in charge of Lamu County, according to Kenya Forest Service’s Information Officer Anne Kaari who told The Standard yesterday evening that “the matter involving the incident in which he was involved is before court,” and added, “we cannot comment further over a matter that is before court.”

Avude is believed to come from Busia but it is not clear whether he was still in Lamu.

Ms Kaari said she was not aware if he had been suspended, adding that only KFS directors could disclose the details.

But others were more forthcoming about Avude’s situation.

“We have already taken the man to court where he has now to fight against the accusation,” Mr Omolo told The Standard, adding that the civil servant was “reckless after drinking beer and is someone who talks without respect for his Head of State.”

The Forest officer is said to have uttered the words against President Kenyatta during a heated debate that was recorded by a National Intelligence Security officer.

The record will be used against him in court.

“The man has appeared before a magistrate in Mpeketoni,  which led to his suspension from work,” said Omolo.

Constitutional rights

Avude was arrested and charged amid grumbling from civil servants in the area who said he was only exercising his fundamental rights as found in the freedom of speech and his utterances were not offensive.

Some civil servants who spoke to The Standard said the matter had been hushed up because Government officials feared a backlash.

The Standard was unable to get the exact wording of the charge against Avude due to bureaucracy.

Last month, Kisii County Assembly member Samuel Apoko was charged with uttering contemptuous words that demeaned President Kenyatta.

He was accused of saying that “those close to President Uhuru Kenyatta should advise him to stop smoking bhang”.

Apoko, who represents Riogoro Ward, denied the charges.

According to reports, Apoko uttered the words at Kerera village in Kisii County on August 28, last year.

According to Section 132 of the Penal Code, it is illegal to undermine the authority of a public officer.