As we move towards the 2022 general elections, circumspection must guide us. Past election campaigns have been anything, but peaceful. Mostly, they have been characterised by violence and intolerance. The culmination of this sad state of affairs was the 2007/2008 post-election violence in which more than 1,300 died, and over half a million internally displaced.
Though Kenyans vowed that such would never happen again, current premature campaigns point to the fact that our leaders drew little, or no lessons from that ignominious period. Some of them continue to make public utterances that amount to hate speech. For this reason, institutions charged with keeping Kenyans on the straight and narrow, like the police and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) are duty bound to act decisively.
NCIC bears greater responsibility to ensure leaders, indeed all Kenyans, behave responsibly. Consequently, NCIC has written to the Committee on National Security and Administration with proposals on punitive measures that could keep everybody in line.
Further, NCIC seeks special power to investigate and prosecute cases without going through the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The commission faces many challenges; from poor funding, inadequate staffing, lack of prosecutorial powers, to unsatisfactory working relations with other arms of government, in particular, the police and Judiciary.
Whenever the heat has been turned on NCIC to state why it is not securing convictions, yet many leaders openly engage in open violation of the law in public rallies, it has always hidden behind its inability to prosecute cases.
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- 3 Kings and queens of loose talk run wild in campaigns
- 4 NCIC sounds alarm over rising political tensions
While streamlining the working relationship between DPP and NCIC would be the best way forward, NCIC seeks special prosecutorial powers. Granted, too much red tape could result is delay hence, justice delayed is justice denied. But then, would special prosecutorial power, by itself, make NCIC more effective? If that will help, the commission should get what it wants.
In all, everything possible should be done to ensure hate speech does not gain an upper hand in our dealings. NCIC must get Kenyans to behave responsibly without trampling on their constitutional rights, more importantly, the freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech must be exercised judiciously because it stops where it intrudes on other rights and freedoms. All said and done, we should be guided, not necessarily by law, but our consciences.