Cohesion team must rein in on hate speech
Wednesday, September 9th, 2020
The 2007/8 post-election violence remains a major stain in our country’s political history.
The unfortunate events of the period exposed the fragile nature of our nationhood as built around communities, which treat each other with suspicion.
A commission tasked to inquire into the causes of the violence, among others, cited incitement of communities by politicians through inflammatory speeches.
The National Commission on Human Rights also reported that politicians used dehumanising descriptions of opposing political groups, tagging along their communities.
The incitement revolved around grievances on land, sharing of national resources, poverty and unemployment.
If for anything else, the violence that claimed hundreds of lives underlined the importance of co-existence.
That is why we are disturbed by what appears to be rapid return of hate speech in national political discourse.
A politician was yesterday arrested for alleged incitement while another has circulated a highly defamatory video in which he hurled insults against the President and his family.
A senator has been dragged to court for making inciting comments during a Building Bridges Initiative rally.
This turns focus on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, one of the Agenda Four organisations set up to address causes of the violence.
The commission is mandated to facilitate and promote equal opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence of persons of different ethnic groups.
But there are concerns that the team is largely ineffective in the face of continued spread of hatred, but only makes knee-jerk reactions whenever there is national outrage.
The team is supposed to constantly monitor speeches by public leaders but it seems to have dangerously let its guard down.
We ask the cohesion committee to rise to the occasion and tame politicians propagating hatred.
Failing to take action against the warmongers will not only breed impunity but increase tension as the country prepares for a possible referendum and eventually a General Election.
Few hate speech cases have been successfully prosecuted raising concerns about the role of the Judiciary in the fight against hate speech.
Even as we call for court action against hatemongers, we are equally worried about ordinary Kenyans who seem to be egging on reckless leaders by providing ready audiences.