BBI supporters

Youth display a placard showing support for BBI at Ndathi village in Nyeri County duirng President Uhuru Kenyatta's visit to launch the Last Mile power project on February 01, 2021.

| Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Lawmakers seeking to criminalise hustler narrative

What you need to know:

  • Lawmakers say narrative has potential to pit Kenyans against each other.
  • The narrative is mostly being propagated by supporters of DP William Ruto.

Lawmakers are planning to amend the law to criminalise the hustler versus dynasties narrative by having it classified as hate speech.

The National Assembly’s national security committee led by Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange wants the National Cohesion and Integration Act amended to include class as a basis for incitement and discrimination.

The committee at the weekend ended a two-day retreat in Mombasa to go through Bills that will be tabled in Parliament when it resumes in February and an amendment to the Act is in the offing.

“The NCIC (National Cohesion and Integration Commission) had requested for strengthening of the Act to make it harsher so as to deter hate speech. As part of that strengthening, incitement along class lines will come up,” Mr Koinange told the Nation.

The law mostly touches on discrimination and incitement on the basis of ethnicity, race, nation and religion.

Address class issue

But MPs now want the class issue explicitly addressed saying the hustler vs dynasty narrative should be treated as hate speech with the potential to pit Kenyans against each other.

“There is no difference between those inciting people along tribal lines and those doing so along class lines. The law needs to catch up with new forms of hate,” said Mr Koinange.

The narrative is mostly being propagated by supporters of Deputy President William Ruto who have christened themselves as hustlers to portray themselves as identifying with the downtrodden and champions of their plight.

Privilege and power

They have branded the political wing led by President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga as the dynasties, suggesting they have grown in privilege and power.  

“We have started witnessing splashes of violence based on the hustler vs dynasty narrative. It is very dangerous and can plunge the country into chaos," Mr Koinange said.

He warned that the narrative is likely to drive the country into civil strife and prevailed upon the DP and his supporters to desist from using it lest it boomerangs on them.

The MPs’ team has summoned Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and NCIC commissioners to appear before it today (Tuesday).

‘Kicks of a dying horse’

But the DP’s allies, Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany and Belgut MP Nelson Koech, dismissed Mr Koinange’s comments, terming them “the last kicks of a dying horse”.

“These people should be men enough and accept that we have a better narrative—of wanting to include everybody in government decisions and the idea that we need to uplift the poor before we talk about the positions of the few at the top—and come up with a counter and then we meet at the ballot. Why are they scared? Raila Odinga has been calling hustlers taka taka (garbage). Why are they scared of them then?” Mr Kositany, who is also the Soy MP, asked.

Mr Koech termed the move by Mr Koinange as a desperate action, saying the security committee should instead focus on the situation in Kapedo, Baringo County.

“The Hustler Nation is not a divisive tag. To the contrary, it is a clarion call for unity. For the first time in post-independence Kenya, there is sense of unity among Kenyans drawn from humble backgrounds irrespective of tribe. The hustler tag is a story of similar origin and current state of lives shared by the majority of Kenyans,” Mr Koech said.

“Their end is nigh however much they attempt to clutch at straws,” he declared.

Polarise the country

In Kisumu, NCIC commissioner Dorcas Kedogo at the weekend also cautioned that the hustler versus dynasty talk could polarise the country and trigger violence between the rich and the poor.

The commissioners and a team from the secretariat were in Kisumu County to promote peaceful coexistence.

“While the narrative has been developed by politicians, the middle class will be the easy target for the poor masses who interact with them on a day-to-day basis,” she cautioned.

Vet aspiring candidates

The NCIC also said they want to vet and issue clearance to candidates vying in the next elections.

NCIC commissioner Phillip Okundi said they are lobbying for an amendment to the Leadership and Integrity Act to mandate the commission to vet aspiring candidates by subjecting them to integrity tests in compliance with Chapter Six of the Constitution.

“Just like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations among others, NCIC will also play a role in the vetting of political aspirants,” he said.

Mr Okundi indicated that they have deployed monitors across the country and cautioned politicians against issuing inflammatory statements that could incite Kenyans into violence as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and 2022 campaigns heat up.

Additional reporting by Victor Raballa