'Hustler Nation' talk could soon be criminalised

Deputy President William Ruto rides on a wheelbarrow during a meeting with youth and women groups from Nairobi County at his Karen residence in Nairobi on September 28, 2020.. 

Photo credit: DPPS

What you need to know:

  • National Cohesion and Integration Commission seeking more powers to tame hate speech.
  • The commission is also seeking to be included among the constitutional commissions so that it can discharge its mandate without fear.

Proposals to criminalise the “hustlers versus dynasties” narrative and to give the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) more powers to rein in hate speech mongers ahead of the 2022 elections should be considered by lawmakers in two weeks.

The National Assembly Committee on Administration and National Security is expected to present a Bill to the House amending the National Cohesion and Integration Act in order to curb the rising tension caused by politicians’ utterances.

In a meeting with MPs yesterday, commission chairman Samuel Kobia said the current debate on dynasties and hustlers risks plunging the country into chaos ahead of the general elections.

“We have seen leaders making statements that have caused tension in the country. If this is not properly handled, it could lead the country the Rwanda way in 2022,” Mr Kobia told MPs.

“Some of these utterances should not be made by our leaders. It is sad that we have differences created by our own leaders,” Mr Kobia added.

The NCIC boss told the team led by Paul Koinange that the powers they currently have are limited and they cannot do much to curb hate speech as expected by the public.

“Yes, we have teeth, but they are not strong enough to bite. This is the opportune time to make the amendments. We do our work of investigating and hand over the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Our work ends there,” he said.

It is on this front that the NCIC wants the Act amended to give it more powers to deal more decisively with hate-mongers.

To steer the changes process, the committee appointed Homa Bay MP Peter Kaluma to lead a sub-committee consisting of the legal team from the NCIC and come up with amendment areas.

“We will do our work and give the committee specific gaps in the Act that need amendment,” Mr Kobia said.

Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said the public needs to see action from NCIC, especially on politicians fuelling hate speech.

Hate speech

“We need to see a situation where if an MP makes utterances bordering on hate speech, he’s arraigned in court the next day,” Mr Mulu said.

To strengthen the NCIC ahead of 2022, the commission wants MPs to give it Sh1 billion to open eight regional offices.

Commissioner Danvas Makori said the offices will aid the commission’s work ahead of the 2022 polls.

“If we don’t have these offices, it is going to be difficult to execute our mandate. This amount is not much given what is at stake,” Dr Makori said.

The commission is also seeking to be included among the constitutional commissions so that it can discharge its mandate without fear.

As it stands, the commission is a statutory body and the commissioners yesterday expressed fear that the commission can be scrapped by just deleting the NCIC Act.

With 2022 politics gathering steam and given the lucid nature of Kenyan politics, it’s expected that more and more politicians will find themselves on the wrong side of the law due to their loose tongues.

According to Section 96 of the Penal code, those found guilty of propagating hate speech are liable to imprisonment of a term not exceeding five years.

However, lack of clarity on how technological evidence can be admitted as evidence continues to give prosecutors a difficult time in nailing suspects.

However, a review of past cases of hate speech shows that most of them got dropped due to lack of evidence.