The turn of events at a meeting attended by Deputy President William Ruto in Murang'a built the groundswell for deliberations by security organs and new resolution announced yesterday.
In a rare but drastic move, the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) chaired by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua called for compliance with the Public Order Act during public meetings, giving indications of tough times ahead for those mobilising for 2022 General Election.
Despite warnings by President Uhuru Kenyatta to cease 2022 presidential campaigns, Dr Ruto and his allies continue with countrywide tours. Today, Ruto is expected in Nyamira.
"Ruto will be in Nyamira tomorrow, meeting hustlers in their towns, markets, homes and villages. Nyamira leaders met earlier and prepared to host him," one of the DP's strategists Dennis Itumbi announced yesterday.
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In the NSAC resolution announced by Kinyua, the police were ordered to strictly enforce the law with regard to public meetings without fear or favour to ease political tensions.
Also targeted are media outlets who were warned that they will be held responsible for the content they publish and or broadcast pursuant to Section 62 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act as read together with the guidelines for monitoring hate speech in the electronic media.
The committee concluded the country is experiencing growing political tension that's creating division pitting politicians and their supporters against perceived opponents.
“In this regard, NSAC hereby directs relevant security organs to enforce these directives without fear or favour to the offenders, regardless of their economic standing, ethnicity, religion and political association and status,” said Kinyua.
He said unchecked utterances and political weaponisation of public gatherings continue to undermine law and order.
Kinyua said NSAC noted the country is only now recovering from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to loss of life, severe economic contraction, disruption of way of life and loss of livelihoods.
“Sadly, some individuals are taking advantage of the vulnerabilities in our population occasioned by the socio-economic shocks of Covid-19. In pursuit of cheap publicity, these individuals, in attempts to further their selfish political agenda, are inciting the youths who are fearful of their future.”
In apparent reference to the Murang’a incident, he said some individuals are attempting to radicalise the youths to the point where they have fought and in one tragic incident, killed each other.
He said whereas the committee was fully seized of the matter, and conscious of the freedoms and liberties enshrined in the Constitution and other laws, it had directed that all public meetings and public processions shall be held in strict compliance with Section 5 of the Public Order Act, Cap 56 Laws of Kenya.
A convenor or any person intending to hold a public meeting or a public procession shall notify the Officer Commanding Station (OCS) of such intent at least three days but not more than 14 days before the proposed date of the public meeting or procession.
According to Kinyua, the convenor shall be present throughout the meeting or procession and shall assist the police in the maintenance of peace and order at the meeting or procession.
Those present shall obey all orders given by the OCS or any police officer of or above the rank of inspector.
Those in attendance are required to exercise a high sense of civic duty and responsibility, and not to be in possession of any weapon. They are to bind themselves to be peaceful and shall keep to the designated places of public meetings or public processions.
They are further required to report to the relevant authority incidents of hate speech, incitement, ethnic contempt or any other offence, respect the freedom of expression of other people, not abuse, exclude, demean, stereotype or profile other people and not propagate insurgency and socio-economic hostility.
“That all persons who elect to address any public meeting and procession shall be bound by the legal penalties and obligations set out in Sections 13 and 62 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, which provisions bar speeches, utterances and messages that are offensive, abusive, insulting, misleading, confusing, obscene or profane language.”
The committee also ordered those inciting, threatening or using discriminatory language that may or is intended to expose an individual or group to violence, hatred, hostility, discrimination or ridicule on the basis of ethnicity, tribe, race, color, religion, gender, disability or otherwise be held responsible.
Media houses were ordered not to publish words intended to incite feelings of contempt, hatred, hostility, violence or discrimination against any person, group or community on the basis of ethnicity or race and desist from providing platform to hate mongers, inciters and tribalists.
All social media users shall be held individually liable for all content on their social media profiles as per the NCIC Act as read together with the guidelines on prevention of dissemination of undesirable, bulk and premium rate political messages and political social media content via electronic communication network.