What you need to know:
- Its main mandate is to entrench national cohesion, which has eluded the country for years.
- But NCIC has failed to rein in politicians who have repeatedly made tribal remarks that are, arguably, hate speech and polarised the country every election cycle.
- NCIC should come up with an early warning system that prompts proactive remedy or be disbanded.
The recent inflammatory remarks attributed to legislators point at a disturbing trend and question the purpose and mandate of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).
Conceived in a 2008 Act of Parliament following a spate of mindless bloodletting that shook the nation, the NCIC was among key independent institutions created by the current Constitution. Its main mandate is to entrench national cohesion, which has eluded the country for years.
But NCIC has failed to rein in politicians who have repeatedly made tribal remarks that are, arguably, hate speech and polarised the country every election cycle. The suspects have only made sporadic appearances in court, only to be released on bail. Deadly violence seems to be condoned, particularly inter-clan conflict, especially in the pastoralist counties, triggered by unresolved disputes over resources and the vile utterances. And there are fears that this could worsen as we enter the electioneering year.
The commission has only been vocal in criticising those tagged as making condescending remarks about others but failed to take effective action that will result in conviction for those beating drums of war, which nearly threw the country off the rails in the 2007/2008 post-election violence. NCIC should come up with an early warning system that prompts proactive remedy or be disbanded.
It is not a happenstance that clan conflicts are flaring up in pastoral counties, especially in Mandera, Marsabit and Turkana, as we get on the home stretch towards the 2022 General Election. In 2013, Mandera saw unspeakable clashes as politicians made inflammatory remarks with many lives lost.
There are clear indicators of a repeat of the violent times and politicians are, yet again, the main suspects; so, the government warns them — yet again!
The role of the State is not to warn perpetrators of grave crimes but punish them and protect civilians. The lacklustre performance of NCIC has led to more Kenyans embracing hate talk on social media, where they constantly make disdainful remarks against others, having learnt the vice from politicians and aware that they will get off the hook.
While all citizens are guaranteed freedom of expression by Article 33 of the Constitution, it does not provide leeway for incitement to violence or ethnic hatred, as well as vilification with intent to cause harm. The pastoral north, a region that has lagged behind the rest of the country since Independence due to conflict, poverty and marginalisation, has borne the brunt of clan conflicts.
The pastoral counties have seen intensified deadly clan and ethnic violence in the past decade with some attackers targeting women and children. We cannot have peace by allowing violence to go on unchecked, which has become the hallmark of NCIC.
Mr Adankhalif is a disaster risk and policy consultant. [email protected]