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Sudi acquitted of hate speech in defamation case against former First Lady Mama Ngina

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi with his lawyers Kipkoech Ngetich and Collins Kiprono at Nakuru Law Courts before Principal Magistrate Isaac Orenge on February 11, 2022. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

A court in Nakuru has acquitted Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi in a case where he was accused of insulting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s mother, former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta.

Sudi was, in September 2021, charged with two counts of hate speech and one count of offensive conduct.

Principal Magistrate Isaac Orenge ruled that the evidence presented before the court was not enough to convict the legislator.

The MP had been accused of using threatening words, in a video shared on social media, which were likely to stir up ethnic hatred.

In his ruling on Friday, Mr Orenge said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he committed the offence.

“The court cannot fill the gaps in the insufficient evidence provided by the prosecution. No matter the bulkiness, any amount of worthless and discredited evidence cannot warrant placing the accused on defence,” ruled Orenge.

Orenge said that having looked at the clip, it was clear that the utterances were made at an unknown place and it would be difficult to know if it was in public or not.

“I did not see any member of the public in the clip. The prosecution thus failed to prove Sudi made the utterances in a public place,” he ruled.

Orenge ruled that the prosecution failed to present evidence to show that Sudi’s alleged hateful message clip, stirred hatred within his sub-county.

He noted that although some of the five witnesses who testified claimed there were demonstrations, no evidence was presented in court to prove the same.

The magistrate questioned the authenticity of the social media accounts that carried the clip, noting that one account was created after the clip was aired.

“The prosecution filed no verification report to prove the said accounts were verified, leaving many questions unanswered,” he ruled.

Orenge faulted the prosecution for not bringing members of the public or opinion leaders from communities mentioned in the clip to give evidence that Sudi’s utterances stirred ethnic hatred.

“Witnesses themselves informed the court that mere mentioning of the two tribes in the clip didn’t amount to hate speech,” he said.

He ruled that Sudi’s utterances did not fit the definition of hate speech as set out in the law.

On the offensive conduct count, Orenge ruled that it was not established that Sudi’s statements were intended to cause a breach of peace.

He noted that no witness stated the effect the words uttered had on them.

“The upshot is that the prosecution has not presented sufficient evidence to warrant the placement of accused on defence," the magistrate ruled.

Sudi maintained his innocence and said the decision by the court proved it.

He said all Kenyans were equal and warned the government against treating some politicians differently because of political affiliations.

“Justice has been served and will continue to be served despite pressure from people above targeting specific politicians,” Sudi's lawyer Kipkoech Ngetich said.