Rising Religious, Ethnic and Political Intolerance
Preach Hate: Face Charges
National Cohesion and Integration Commission’s Concerns on Rising Religious, Ethnic and
(Nairobi 5th November 2011)
November 16th is the International Day of Tolerance. We are deeply concerned about the rising levels of intolerance on several fronts, specifically religious, intra ethnic and inter ethnic tensions.
First is the hate propaganda against Kenyan Cushites – specifically against Kenyan Somalis. Hate is permeating social media networks, broadcasts and SMS text messages amounting to civilian ‘ethnic and racial profiling’ of members of the Cushitic race. These include one that advises Kenyans to alight from Matatus if a 'Wariah' gets on board.’ That outrightly amounts to fear-mongering and is likely to fuel xenophobic attacks against the Somali and other Cushitic communities in the country.
We have received many complaints of victimization of Kenyan Somalis, including allegations of women in buibuis being spat on, harassment of Somalis in matatus and in schools. Increasingly Kenya is preparing the ground to make Somalis targets of xenophobia and violent attacks. NCIC shall not allow this to happen.
Additionally, rising sectarian tensions and violence has begun to be meted out to political aspirants on the campaign trail. For instance, Hon Raphael Tuju, a presidential aspirant and former Member of Parliament for Rarieda, was attacked in Kisumu City by a rowdy mob leading to the injury of six people in his convoy and destruction of vehicles. Intolerance is propagated especially prior to, and during the electioneering period mainly through the media and in political rallies and this evidently has begun as we head towards the general elections next year. In the pyramid of intolerance Kisumu County is at the apex.
People become members of the Al-Shabaab or any militia group on their individual capacity and not as an ethnic group or a race. The recent confession by the self-declared Al Shabaab-member, Elgiva Bwire Oliacha who pleaded guilty to involvement in a grenade attack in Nairobi should attest to this. The People of North Eastern Province and other frontier areas along the Kenya- Somali border have borne the brunt of insecurity challenges / threats posed by the situation in Somalia for over 20 years. The Kenyan Somali have suffered most at the hands of Al-Shabab just as the Kenyan Kikuyu have suffered most at the hands of the Mungiki. Article 33 of the Constitution of Kenya, while recognizing freedom of expression outlaws incitement to violence, hate speech, advocacy of hatred that constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others, and incitement to cause harm.
NCIC is acting on various complaints. Those who stoned Raphael Tuju were documented on national TV and in newspapers. They must be identified, arrested and prosecuted. We cannot enter an election year while condoning this kind of behavior. We will not allow actions that curtail fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly enshrined in the constitution and we will work with law enforcement officers to nip permeating political intolerance in the bud. Every Kenyan should be able to go to any part of the country and express their opinion without fear or favor as long as their sentiments do not violate the Constitutional rights of other Kenyans.
Ahead of the general elections, combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons or groups is every Kenyan’s civic duty. We must move from ‘Haki Yetu to Jukumu Langu’. As a country, we must go beyond mere rhetoric and reaffirm our commitment to fundamental freedoms. NCIC is working in partnership with relevant state and non state actors to take measures, as set forth in the NCI Act and the Constitution, consistent with our obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on ethnicity, race, religion, and/or political ideology.
The role of incitement, hate speech and inflammatory statements in promoting ethnic and political and undoing the gains we have achieved so far cannot be gainsaid.
The NCIC has:
1. Launched investigations into the origins and spread of hate propaganda against the members of the Cushitic community, particularly the Somali Community.
2. Worked with the Media Council of Kenya and Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to obtain information that could be used as supportive evidence on hate speech cases.
3. Is Working in a tripartite arrangement with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Director of the Public Prosecutions (DPP) to spearhead investigations on the Kisumu incident to ensure that perpetrators of the violence, some of whom will be identified though media footage are prosecuted.
4. Calling upon the leaders to promote tolerance, peaceful coexistence, diversity and divergent opinions as we prepare for the 2012 general elections.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is established under the National Cohesion and Integration Act No. 12 of 2008 enacted after the 2007 post election crisis and subsequent political negotiations. The Commission’s object and purpose, as provided in Section 25 of the Act is to facilitate and promote equality of opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful coexistence between persons of the different ethnic communities of Kenya and advise the Government on all aspects thereof.
MZALENDO N. KIBUNJIA, Ph.D, EBS