NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is now asking the government to retain chiefs in the current administrative structure to help reign in persons who incite ethnic passions, as the country prepares for the March 4, 2013 general elections.
The commissioner in charge of complaints Milly Lwanga told journalists in Nairobi that the role played by chiefs should not be downplayed because they are valuable in implementing the laws at grassroots level.
“One of the things we have discovered is that most people who came out to speak to us were saying that the first point of call is the chief and we know that, we cannot afford to lose them,” she explained.
“So if we do not respect the position held by the people in helping us remain tolerant and harmonised then it will be most unfortunate,” she warned.
Lwanga further urged the government to allow the chiefs make a smooth transition into the new dispensation as opposed to immediately scrapping their positions.
“When we ask people to be ethnically tolerant we know for a fact that there will always be that element that will be wayward and that is why it is important to have structures in place that are working, are recognised and are respected by the people to help us achieve our goal,” she added.
She also warned Kenyans against politicising the administrative structures envisaged by the Constitution and instead work towards supporting the government in implementing them.
Lwanga, who spoke after holding discussions with the chiefs on cohesion, added that chiefs had been experiencing difficulties monitoring hate speech on the ground because the current law structures do not require individuals to notify the chiefs on any planned rallies.
“When people are having rallies on the ground chiefs are not informed because the law only requires individuals to alert the police but we have given them strategies on how they can still monitor the situation through the community peace committees,” she explained.
Chiefs had also raised concern with the NCIC, saying they were at times called in as witnesses in hate speech cases.
In the meantime, NCIC said it intends to re-strategise and address the vacancy in the vice chairperson’s position in November.
Lwanga however, noted the challenges that the commission was facing since its term was extended for one year.
“Filling the vice chairperson’s position was not something that we would quickly get into, it took time and by the time we were getting into it we were on our way out so it was not a priority,” she explained adding that “Right now we are still in the process of getting back in so it is an issue that we have not delved into since the time lost the former vice chairperson, Mary Onyango.”
The commission will vote for a vice chairperson from the commissioners who already have a place within the NCIC.
They must however, get a new commissioner to fill in Onyango’s position as she doubled up as a commissioner and vice chairperson.