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Sunday, May 30, 2010

HATE MONGERS BEWARE

An elaborate security plan has been put in place to check hate speech during campaigns on the proposed constitution.

Officers from the National Security Intelligence Service, the CID, and the Provincial Administration will team up with volunteers from civil society organisations to monitor speeches at Yes and No campaign rallies countrywide.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission will provide 5,000 audio recorders for those monitoring the rallies to preserve evidence of any instances of hate speech and incitement to violence.

The move is part of efforts to ensure that campaigns ahead of the referendum do not threaten national security as was the case after the announcement of the disputed 2007 General Election results that led to violence that claimed more than 1,300 lives and displaced over 500,000 people.

Security agencies and members of the Provincial Administration have been ordered to ensure that leaders who preach hatred during the campaigns are arrested and prosecuted.

The latest development follows last week’s two high-level security meetings in Nairobi that brought together the chiefs of the different security agencies and members of the Provincial Administration.

Head of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Mr Mzalendo Kibunjia, told the Nation that his team met Internal Security permanent secretary Francis Kimemia last Monday over hate speech.

The commissioners also held talks with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Keriako Tobiko, and Attorney-General Amos Wako to discuss ways of gathering evidence that will ensure the prosecution of hate speech suspects.

Mr Kibunjia said the commission does not have adequate resources and staff to monitor campaign rallies throughout the country and will therefore engage the help of the Provincial Administration.

The commission has approached donors to fund the purchase of about 5,000 voice recorders for distribution to the administrators, who will also be expected to provide regular reports on the campaigns in their areas.

“Our work at the commission will be to evaluate the evidence provided and see whether we need to summon or arrest the person implicated,” he said.

The commission has already summoned several politicians reported to have made inciting utterances.

According to Mr Kibunjia, compared to the run-up to the 2007 General Election, there are fewer cases of hate speech.

Under the National Cohesion and Integration Act, a person found guilty of hate speech is liable to a fine of not more than Sh1 million or imprisonment for not more than three years, or both.

Those reported to the commission will be invited for a “polite chat” and asked not to repeat the offence, said Mr Kibunjia. A repeat offence will lead to prosecution.

The commission also intends to enlist the help of the media and non-governmental organisations in remote areas of the country to report on hate speech.

The commission is also monitoring the media during the current campaigns.

At an event organised by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers last week, Mr Kibunjia asked business leaders to take owners of radio stations to task as the broadcasters are the key transmitters of hate speech during campaigns.

“You should ask them (the media owners) whether they want to profit by making Kenya a failed state,” he said.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is also monitoring speeches made at campaign rallies.

“We are monitoring with a focus on opinion leaders as well as investigating allegations and incidents of threats, particularly against groups,” its chairman Florence Simbiri-Jaoko told the Nation.

On Sunday, Internal Security minister George Saitoti reiterated his directive to the provincial administrators to crack down on individuals who engage in hate speech.

“The campaigns should not be used to plant seeds of discord,” Prof Saitoti said during a church fundraiser in his Kajiado North constituency.

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