Rift rights activists press state on hate speech, incitement to violence

Fr. Joseph Mutie (centre), Chairman of Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, accompanied by Sheikh Abdulahi Abdi (left), Chairman of the National Muslim Leaders Forum, Abdirahman Ismail (right), Executive Director of Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, other religious leaders and commissioners from Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo Counties address the press during a Rift Valley security meeting at Eka Hotel in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on May 20, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Human Rights activists in the Rift Valley have petitioned the government to take firm action against leaders who propagate hate speech and incitement to violence during campaigns for the August 9 General Election.

They demanded the arrest and prosecution of hatemongers, noting that they are out to cause chaos and destabilise the country.

“The government should closely monitor leaders engaging in hate speech and incitement to violence with a view to taking action against them,” said the activists, led by David Koros, a renowned human rights defender in the region.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has singled out 23 counties as possible violence hotspots, less than three months to the elections.

Relative peace

The NCIC says Uasin Gishu and Nakuru, previously perceived as conflict hotspots during election periods, have registered relative peace in the past 10 years.

“Leaders should avoid incitement to violence and hate speech, especially during the campaign period. They should instead preach peace and tolerance,” added Mr Koros.

Private security firms in the region are cashing in on rising demand for guards.

Most real estate investors and traders are hiring additional private guards to bolster security due to fears of possible election violence.

“There is increased demand for private guards by investors who want to protect their property against damage should chaos erupt,” said David Kosgey, a private security firm operator in Eldoret.

Ethnic clashes, looting

Some of the security concerns in the region include ethnic clashes, burglary and looting.

A spot check by the Nation indicated that some traders are scaling down their stocks, fearing that they would incur losses if violence erupts.

“I do not want a repeat of previous post-election violence when I lost property worth millions of shillings due to chaos,” said Amos Kamau, a trader in Eldoret.

But clerics in the region have challenged politicians and all Kenyans to embrace a peaceful environment before and after the elections so as to avoid a repeat of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

“Kenya has come a long way since the 2007 election. It is now up to all leaders to ensure that the violence that followed that election is not repeated on August 9,” said Rev John Kirui of the Reformed Church in Nandi County.

Hotspots monitoring

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Maalim Mohamed said security teams are monitoring events in areas viewed as hotspots. He has asked candidates for elective seats to observe the Public Order Act in their campaigns and inform police about planned meetings.

He said elaborate security arrangements had been made to ensure peaceful elections, noting that the law will be tough against individuals involved in criminal activities.

“Parallel meetings will not be tolerated and all aspirants have a responsibility to maintain law and order in their campaigns,” said Mr Maalim.

He urged residents to report to police any threats to peace.

“Any act of incitement to violence is against the law and we will not hesitate to take action,” he added.

He cautioned politicians against fanning divisions along ethnic lines and misusing social media platforms.

Among counties that the NCIC has listed as possible hotspots are Kisumu, Mombasa, Lamu, Bungoma, Vihiga, Kiambu, Homa Bay, Bomet, and Garissa. 

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