The call for peace and patriotism dominated the International Conference on Peace, Security and Social Enterprise that took place yesterday at Mount Kenya University (MKU) main campus in Thika, Kiambu County, with speakers underlining the need for unity and tolerance as Kenya goes to the polls.
Participants noted the need to educate the public to shun hate speech fronted by politicians to suit their personal benefits. The theme of the summit was ‘The role of universities, public and private sectors in peaceSbuilding for socio-economic development’.
Mr Jackson Mwikamba from the National Cohesion and Integrated Commission told the participants that NCCK has been working hard by partnering with relevant bodies to tame rising cases of hate speech, especially during this volatile electioneering period.
“This event is timely as we head for the polls when our political landscapes are volatile. We are working with journalists …and other entities to ensure peace and unity is maintained,” he said.
Nation Media Group chief executive officer Stephen Gitagama, who was a key speaker during the event, noted that media has a central role to play by remaining neutral and objective, given that most Kenyans rely on media houses for credible information and to make informed decisions.
Mr Gitagama emphasised that the media has an obligation to drive issue-based campaigns and act as the election watchdog.
“For citizens to make well-informed decisions in an election, there must be a free, reliable and trusted media that has the ability to influence independent and diverse views.
“The media, therefore, plays a critical role in bringing stakeholders together to achieve peace,” he said in his speech at Mwai Kibaki Convention Centre, the venue of the event.
Mr Gitagama further said the media has the power to lower political temperatures through civic education and dissemination of credible information, as well as avoiding falling for fake news.
Christine Nguku-Katta, who is the assistant director of Training and Curriculum Development at the Media Council of Kenya, said MCK has created “strong and strict” reporting guidelines to the media ahead of the polls to ensure they report objectively.
The MCK has been organising forums for journalists both at national and county levels, educating them on political reporting skills and etiquette.
MKU, for its part, has been holding peace forums to educate Kenyans on the need for peace as the country transitions to new leadership. The university has also been forging partnerships with the private and public sectors to equip its students with requisite skills needed in the job market.
In Thika, where its main campus is, it has an agreement with Thika Level 5 Hospital for training and research targeting its medicine students. It has also diversified its revenue streams to supplement its budget.
The Sh100 million convention centre was recently commissioned to tap into the growing demand for venue for meetings and conferences.