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State moves to deal with political inciters

By Grace Ngángá and Gloria Aradi | February 4th 2021

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission bosses (from left) Abdulaziz Farah, Skitter Wambua (Commission Secretary), Dr Samuel Kobia (Chair), Dorcas Kedogo and Danvas Makori at Crown Plaza Hotel in Nairobi yesterday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The government is tightening the noose on alleged perpetrators of political violence, including shaming them and eventually blocking them off electoral contests.

In a multi-pronged approach, key institutions have swung into action to tame the rising political temperatures by holding isolated incidents to full account, and also promising bad returns for those sowing seeds of discord and mistrust among Kenyans.

Politicians have recently been toppling over themselves to please their masters, including by engaging in public brawls like the ones witnessed in Kisii on Monday.

In the Monday incident, Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, who is allied to ODM leader Raila Odinga, and South Mugirango counterpart Sylvanus Osoro, allied to Deputy President William Ruto, confronted one another during the funeral service of Abel Gongera, the Kisii Deputy governor Joash Maangi’s father.

Other recent events include the stoning of Raila convoy in Githurai, in Kiambu County, the violent interruption of Ruto’s meeting at Burma Market in Nairobi.

“We are greatly concerned that the current political climate can be likened to that which preceded the electoral violence of 2007/2008. In fact, the current negative discourse is slowly but stealthily planting dislike, distrust and animosity among people who have coexisted peacefully over a long period of time, a situation that is likely to heighten perceptions of ethnic inequality and exclusion,” NCIC chair Samuel Kobia said.

He shamed immediate former governor of Nairobi Mike Sonko, Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno, Osoro and Arati for their conduct, but also celebrated their colleagues Abdikarim Osman (Fafi) and Charity Gathambi (Njoro) for their exemplary conduct in promoting peace.

List of shame

Dr Kobia noted that their action was pursuant to Section 28 of the NCIC Act 2008, which grants NCIC power to publish the names of persons or institutions whose words or conduct may undermine peace. He said they were motivated by the recent rise in violence and intolerance, as Kenya inches closer to the 2022 polls.

With the General Election just 15 months away, NCIC was concerned that the political temperature was rising, and the country continued to be subjected to premature campaigns, sometimes accompanied by violence.

Rev Kobia disclosed that individuals who appear on the list of shame thrice would be put on the consequential wall of shame, automatically making them ineligible to contest for any elective position.

“We summoned two politicians and when we mentioned the list of shame they said they would not want to appear on the list and have since desisted. We think that once politicians know they run the risk of being ineligible to vie for an elected or appointed position, they will behave,” Kobia noted. 

At the Parliament, National Security committee chair and Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange said following their discussions with Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, recommendations would soon be put in place to guide political gatherings moving forward. Mr Koinange said the government, according to the CS, was keen to ensure those involved in incitement would be dealt with.

Even as it received the Interior CS’s plans for the security ahead of the next polls, the committee indicated that it was still going on with its plans to have the NCIC Act amended to include class as basis for incitement. The law recognises discrimination and incitement on the basis of religion, nation, race and ethnicity.

Dr Ruto has mooted and been promoting his Hustler narrative political strategy as the driver of his 2022 stab at the presidency, and has insisted that it is not about a class war, but inspiration of the poor. 

But, the committee has argued that there is no difference between those inciting people along tribal lines and class lines and that the law needs to catch up with this form of hate.

The Parliamentary committee that has been meeting various stakeholders has itself recommended stringent measures, including legislation on cash bail for crimes that inciters should be given by the courts.

Wajir Woman Rep Fatuma Gedi, who is the Vice-Chair of the Committee, said “enough is enough” and that something had to be done before it was too late.

“It’s high time to crack the whip. The shameful acts of the leaders going on should be highly condemned. It’s now time to tame these rallies before things get out of hand,” she said.

But former Justice Minister Martha Karua called out NCIC for failing impartiality test and asked them to look back at where they fail. Karua said the leaders in government and the proponents of BBI were out there inciting violence from the handshake rallies in Kitui, Mumias and Bukhungu and NCIC had been quiet about it.

“We must be fair and act impartially, those in government are the biggest inciters of violence, and the commission should look at all the statements including even those of the recent meeting at Sagana State Lodge. There should be not favouritism,” said Karua.

She observed that the violence in Kenol in Murangá late last year was a clear picture of how the Government was abetting incitements. “If NCIC is to be taken seriously, they must be seen to take on everyone involved in violence regardless of their political affiliations,” said Karua.

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