Kenya PM on the spot over tribal remarks

April 6, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, April 6 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has written to Prime Minister Raila Odinga over remarks he allegedly made on a local FM station containing divisive and tribalistic connotations.

NCIC Chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia said on Tuesday that the letter which had already been delivered to the Premier’s office marked the beginning of an investigative process into the allegations. He explained that if found guilty, Mr Odinga would have to make a public apology and withdraw the statements.

The comments were allegedly made during a radio talk show on a vernacular radio station last month.

Dr Kibunjia also said the commission had received more than a dozen letters from members of the public over the past six months expressing concerns over tribal and hateful speech by various leaders.

“There is a law that we follow; how these complaints are processed once they have been brought to us. We notify the person against whom the complaints were made and in this case it is the Prime Minister and we know he has already received the complaint. We will then do our own probe to make sure that the complaint is valid,” he said.

He further added that the PM, if found culpable, would also be publicly listed (alongside other such personalities) as one of those who hinder integration and cohesion.

The Commission also asked the civil society, politicians and religious leaders to stop taking hardline positions on the draft Constitution as it threatened to stem disunity in the country.

“Positions either for or against the draft constitution are emerging. We urge tolerance and calm as we dialogue on those issues. Please desist from statements that cast people as ‘we’ versus ‘them’. Such statements are not in the spirit of cohesion and integration and we must tolerate each other,” he said.

He further asked the youth to fully and peacefully participate in the upcoming referendum as their future and that of future generations was at stake.

“As we go into the referendum we wish to remind all that lives were lost in the 2005 referendum and we would not wish a repeat of that tragedy. Kenyans must learn to listen to each other and we urge them to register as voters in large numbers and to take part in this historical moment of our country,” he said. 

Dr Kibunjia has meanwhile welcomed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to open investigations into the 2008 post election violence.

“When we create laws they must be followed; it’s not either or where we have a law but for the sake of cohesion we break it.  I think if we go that way we will breed impunity. The ICC process is one that is anchored in international law and that Kenya is signatory to. It will be a disaster for our commission to interfere,” he said.

The NCIC chairman also said that the expected electioneering period (2012) also required caution from the entire Kenyan fraternity. He said the commission had rolled out a number of activities ahead of the referendum to aid the national agenda and ensure a peaceful outcome.

“There were no structures when we took office and we had to draw a strategic plan. We have to conduct a baseline survey that will help us gather data to help us develop our integration programmes. It is only from this that we can be efficient on our duties and endeavors,” he said.

The Commission however reminded members of the public to use the right channels to air their concerns over those propagating hateful speech.


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