NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 27 – President Mwai Kibaki has suspended Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu from his duties as the Water and Irrigation Assistant Minister after he was charged with incitement to violence and hate speech.
A statement from the Presidential Press Service said: “the President after consultations with Prime Minister Raila Odinga has asked the Hon Waititu to step aside as an assistant minister pending the outcome of the case.”
The MP was to spend the night in police custody as ordered by the court on Thursday morning.
Waititu may face murder charges arising out of his incitement to violence case.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) urged the magistrate’s to remanded the MP at Kayole police station for 48 hours pending investigations into the killing of two people in his constituency on Monday.
The court however sent him to Kileleshwa police station until Friday morning when his bail plea will be determined.
His detention follows an objection by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution for his release, on grounds that he may abscond court attendance.
Through State Counsel Lillian Obuo, the DPP said the lawmaker had refused to honour police summons and went into hiding when he learnt that he was being sought.
Waititu had on Wednesday moved to the High Court to block his arrest and prosecution but his plea was rejected by justice Mary Ngugi who directed him to appear before the magistrate’s court on Thursday morning to plead to the charges.
Justice Ngugi said: “Individual liberty is important and must not be tampered with but the law must also be obeyed. The applicant (Waititu) will not stand trial before the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
He is accused of saying: “Tunasema hiyo Wamaasai wote hatuwataki hapa Kayole” (We are saying today that we do not want Maasais in Kayole). “Wamaasai wote ni lazima waondoke, ni watanzania na hawana vitambulisho” (All Maasais must leave; they are from Tanzania and without identification cards).
The prosecution says the words were calculated to bring violence to the Maasai community working in Kayole.”
Waititu had moved to the High Court saying that he was being condemned unheard and wanted the court to block his arrest.
The Embakasi MP called made a personal statement in Parliament where he apologised for urging the eviction of the Maasai from his constituency.
The MP said his remarks targeted night watchmen, many of them, from Tanzania, who also happen to be Maasai. He said the blanket condemnation caught on tape was a “slip of the tongue”.
“When I used the word Maasai, I saw that it had come out wrongly. I accept that mistake and I apologise.
“Nobody can claim that they have never made such mistakes, even you, in your house, your tongue does slip, and that’s very normal,” the Embakasi MP said on Tuesday.
He said one person had been killed in Kayole in the wee hours of the morning and by daybreak; there was chaos in the area. The minister said that he was the one who quelled the chaos.
“I am fully responsible for what I said. There was nobody who was hurt after my utterances. You can interpret my statements as incitement, but that’s your view. But they were already incited. When I arrived, they had already blocked the roads,” said Waititu.
He had earlier addressed a news conference in Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, where he denied that his utterances had caused chaos in Kayole. He said the link to the chaos was “all politics.”
But during Thursday’s hearing, the DPP’s Office has described Waititu as a ‘serial law breaker’ who was quick to breach the law and was swift in running to court to stop his prosecution.
The Office of the DPP says Waititu has similar charges pending before court after he obtained orders blocking the prosecution from proceeding with legal action against him.
Waititu suffered double misfortune on Thursday when Justice Isaac Lenaola who had blocked his prosecution in a previous case gave the okay for the matter to continue.
He said it was unfortunate that Waititu had appeared in his court in handcuffs, a demonstration that the charges against him warranted a hearing.