Nine Moi University students detained over Uasin Gishu hate leaflets

Nine students detained for circulating hate messages on WhatsApp

Nine Moi University students are in police custody in connection with the circulation of hate leaflets through their WhatsApp group.

An Eldoret court has allowed police to detain the students for three days as investigations go on. The case will be mentioned on August 5.

The leaflets warn some communities to leave Uasin Gishu County ahead of next week’s General Election if they do not vote in a certain manner.

Copies were presented in court as evidence.

The leaflets have been a subject of concern, with elders from different communities in Uasin Gishu demanding on Monday that authorities investigate the authors and take action against them, even as Kenya Kwanza politicians, led by its flagbearer Deputy President William Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua, pointed fingers at the government.

The elders spoke as police dismissed claims that some communities have begun fleeing the county fearing possible clashes during and after the August 9 elections.

“We want to insist that no one will be told to leave, because we have lived as one people and even inter-married. Everyone has the right to live anywhere, and as elders, we want everyone to live in peace during this election period,” said Kaburwo council of elders chairperson John Yego at a press briefing in Eldoret.

Eldoret Principal Magistrate Onkoba Mogire directed that the students be detained at the Langas Police Station for three days pending investigations.

Detectives from Eldoret South arrested the suspects on August 1 at Moi University's main campus in Kesses after they circulated pictures of leaflets via a WhatsApp group.

The students objected to their detention, telling the court that they were not the original authors of the leaflets.

One of the suspects told the court that the leaflets originated from Central Kenya and they had already told police the original author.

"I am a student at Moi University. The said leaflets came to our WhatsApp group through another social media source. Police should not detain us but go for the original author and release us," Beatrice Wangari Kumari told the court.

Warning communities

Asking to detain the students, investigating officer Sophia Ibrahim, from the Langas Police Station in Eldoret South, told the court that the leaflets contained information warning certain communities to immediately leave Cheplaskei and Kesses in Uasin Gishu if they will not vote for DP Ruto.

The leaflets went on to tell President Uhuru Kenyatta to leave Dr Ruto alone.

Ms Ibrahim told the court that investigations were still going on to establish the original authors and whether more suspects were involved.

She told Magistrate Mogire that they needed more time to conclude their investigations.

She said that because of the nature of the offence that the suspects are likely to be charged with, they could interfere with investigations if released.

In a sworn affidavit, Ms Ibrahim said the respondents were a flight risk as the investigating officer did not know their original homes.

She said the matter was of public interest and touched on the security of the State this election period.

State counsel Patricia Kirui urged the magistrate to allow the request, noting that the investigation was complex and required the involvement of several state agencies.

Interest of justice

She said the investigating officer required more time.

Investigators also argued that the suspects would be in danger if released.

"The lives of the respondents are in danger and it will be in the interest of justice for them to be in custody pending completion of investigations," Ms Ibrahim said in her affidavit.

Ms Kirui told the court that sharing such leaflets through social media or any other medium is illegal under the National Cohesion and Integration (NCIC) Act.

The magistrate directed police to detain the suspects for three days at the Langas Police Station.

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