Nine Moi University students who were arrested and charged in connection with the circulation of hate leaflets in a WhatsApp group have been been released on Sh1 million bond with a surety of the same amount or an alternative cash bail of Sh500,000 each.
They were accused of spreading false information to create fear ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
On the first charge, Ronald Odhiambo Ochieng, Martin Rodgers, Josphat Chacha, Ian Muibanda, Brian Kipkorir Keter, Dennis Salim Wakhanya, Beatrice Wangari Kumari, Samuel Otieno and Ann Aoko were charged with publishing false information, contrary to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act of 2018.
The court heard that on July 29 at Moi University in Kesses sub-county in Uasin Gishu, jointly with others not in court, they published false information using their mobile phones and caused fear and anxiety among Kenyans.
The information warned certain communities to leave Uasin Gishu ahead of next week’s elections if they did not plan to vote for a certain presidential candidate.
Prosecutors told the court that the information in the leaflets was meant to cause panic, chaos and violence among citizens.
They are accused of using false information to create fear in order to influence voting, contrary to the Elections Offences Act of 2016.
They denied the charges before Eldoret Principal Magistrate Mogire Onkoba.
The students, who were not represented by lawyers, pleaded with the court to release them on lenient bond terms.
“I come from a poor family. I depend on my parents, who are struggling to pay my school fees and they will not be able to pay a huge bond for me,” one of the accused told the court.
State counsel David Fedha did not object to their release on bond. But he urged the court to release them on strict bond terms due the nature of the crime.
“The state has been very lenient to the accused because they are students. That is why I have not objected to their release on bond,” he said.
The court directed each of the accused to be released on a Sh1 million bond with a surety of the same amount or an alternative cash bail of Sh500,000 each. The case will be mentioned on August 22 for further directions.
The accused were detained at the Langas Police Station pending investigations.
The leaflets have been a subject of concern, with elders from different communities in Uasin Gishu demanding that authorities investigate the authors and take action against them.
“We want to insist that no one will be told to leave, because we have lived as one people and even inter-married,” said Kaburwo council of elders chairperson John Yego at a press briefing in Eldoret.
“Everyone has the right to live anywhere, and as elders, we want everyone to live in peace during this election period.”
A week ago, police dismissed claims that some communities had begun fleeing the county because of fears about possible clashes during and after the August 9 elections.