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Judiciary sets up five new special courts to try hate speech suspects

POLITICS
By Moses Nyamori | October 26th 2021

Chief Justice Martha Koome addresses the press after meeting IEBC officials. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

State agencies have hatched a fresh plot to lock out hatemongers from next year’s polls.

A multi-agency team unveiled yesterday announced plans to establish five courts to specifically deal with individuals propagating hate speech during the electioneering period.

The team chaired by Chief Justice Martha Koome said it will not hesitate to petition the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to disqualify certain individuals from running for elective seats.

At least additional 5,500 police officers are set to be deployed to ensure peace and order during the August 9, 2022, General Election.

The Judiciary also announced plans to train 120 judges, 480 magistrates, and 400 judicial staff to deal with election petitions expected to arise from the forthcoming polls.

The multi-agency team brings together the Judiciary under the CJ, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) chair Samuel Kobia.

Already, a technical team has been set up to come up with the election roadmap and is expected to brief the multi-agency team in 10 days.

Justice Koome said the five courts will be established in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu.

“We are concerned about issues of hate speech. I have been requested to set up a specialised court to deal with hate speech,” she said.

At least 5,500 police officers are set to be deployed to ensure peace and order during the August 9, 2022 General Election. [File, Standard]

She said the Judiciary will not hesitate to establish more special courts in areas that will be deemed hotspots, to deal with hate speech.

“We have formed a technical committee that will meet after this to look at issues to be addressed; about conduct of party primaries, dispute arising from the primaries, the kind of intervention that we need to make, including the budgetary issues that we have discussed,” Koome added.

Dr Matiang’i said that they are ready to petition IEBC to block individuals after the government finds credible evidence against them for perpetuating violence.

“We will be presenting to the relevant agencies evidence and information we have of individual political actors who are engaged in incitement and mobilising groups of people to disrupt meetings and they should take individual responsibility,” he said.

“There is nothing to fear as we are ready to provide security. Those who attempt to breach security, we will do what is required of us. We have noted cases of skirmishes,” he added.

The CS disclosed that 5,500 police officers will soon join the service from college to beef up security during the elections. Another 300 specially trained cadet officers will also join the team.

Mr Chebukati said the commission needs the support of other state actors to ensure smooth delivery of the polls.

“Each of these agencies have something to do in the elections. We need Interior Ministry for us to deliver a credible election through provision of security. This has been an interactive meeting and there would be another meeting,” he said.

The IEBC chair decried apathy in the ongoing mass voter registration noting that so far they have managed to enlist about 760,000 out of the 4.5 million targeted at the end of the third week.

The commission had projected to enlist six million new voters at the end of the month-long exercise that is set to conclude next week on Tuesday.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. [File, Standard]

“My appeal to Kenyans is to please come out in large numbers and register,” he said.

At the same time, the Judiciary urged the National Assembly to prioritise passage of Election Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017 that seeks to provide for election petition appeals, including setting timelines for filing and determination of the matters.

The Bill seek to introduce a new requirement that only one appeal may be allowed in an election petition.

It also seeks to increase the number and qualification of Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) members to 25.

Further, it seeks to ensure there is no overlapping of mandate between IEBC and PPDT to streamline operations and avoid forum shopping. 

The Bill has stagnated at the 2nd Reading in the National Assembly.

“Support to unlock this process is therefore required to have the Bill revived and fast-tracked in time for the next general elections,” said the CJ. Koome said that the overall Judiciary election preparedness budgetary deficit for the fiscal year 2022/23 stands at 1,341,173,000.

 

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