The hate speech charge recently levelled against Embakasi MP Ferdinard Waititu, will hopefully serve as an example, indeed a warning, to fellow politicians and give them greater reason to engage their brains before opening their mouths when uttering statements in public.
Waititu who had been detained at the Kileleshwa police station but has since then been released on a 1million bond, has been accused of inciting Kenyans in his constituency against members of the Maasai community.
WAITITU’S KAYOLE ESTATE REMARKS
“Tunasema namna hii, kutoka leo hii wamaasai wote hatutaki kuwaona hapa kayole” (“From today onwards we say that we do not want to see any Maasai’s here in Kayole”, he is alleged to have said to a gathering of local people.
“Wamaasai wote lazima waondoke. Ni watu wa Tanzania na hawana vitambulisho” (All the Maasai ‘s must leave, they are of Tanzanian origin and they don’t even have Kenyan national identity cards” ) he supposedly further stated during a demonstration in Nairobi’s Kayole estate.
ALLEGED THIEF KILLED FOR STEALING A CHICKEN
Waititu’s inciting comments were made following the killing of a young man from the area by two Maasai guards: he had been accused of stealing a chicken.
Waititu’s utterances last week have infuriated Kenyans and many fellow politicians as well, including President Kibaki who suspended him as Assistant Minister for Water pending the outcome of the case.
Uhuru Kenyatta has also ordered Waititu to apologise to the public or leave his party, The National Alliance (TNA).
WAITITU TO FACE MURDER CHARGE?
As it now emerges, the Embakasi MP may also be faced with murder charges as well.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keriako Tobiko (coincidentally a Maasai) told the court through State Counsel Lilian Oburo, that he would be preferring charges of murder, incitement to violence, malicious damage to property and assault against Waititu.
“Mr Tobiko has ordered the police to probe the MP for the murder of two people in Nairobi’s Kayole estate, shortly after the MP uttered inflammatory remarks against the Maasai community”, Obuo stated.
Waititu is renowned for walking close to the line of illegality but this time round he seems to have crossed it, especially at a time when the country is preparing for elections. The gravity of the charges against him might see him loose his parliamentary seat as well.
MORE MPS FACING HATE SPEECH CHARGES
Waititu is not the first MP to be face hate speech charges and we can be sure that certainly he won’t be the last.
Just the other day Environment Minister Chirau Mwakwere was cleared of hate speech charges after the complainants, National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri), withdrew the case.
Mwakwere is alleged to have made a speech during a by-election campaign in his constituency in July 2010 to the effect that indigenous coastal people have been oppressed by Arabs. The complainants withdrew the case after Makwere made a public apology.
DHADHO GODANA SACKED OVER TANA DELTA VIOLENCE
Earlier this month Assistant Livestock Minister, Dhadho Godana, was sacked by President Mwai Kibaki after investigations linked him to the violence in the Tana River Delta where over 100 people have been killed so far in inter-communal fighting.
PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE VITAL IN ELECTION YEAR
The Kenya Forum has expressed the concern before that the definition of ‘hate speech’ is a difficult one not fully covered under Articles 33 and 27 of the new constitution and that we hope the term is not used to deny freedom of speech, or simply to shut up an opponent. The Waititu case, however, would seem to be addressed by these two articles.
The Kenya Forum hopes that the judiciary in Kenya together with NCIC, will ensure that culprits of hate speech and incitement face the law so that others can learn from their experiences, especially at this time when the country is gearing for a national election and when the peaceful coexistence among the 41 communities in Kenya is so crucial.