NAIROBI November 4 – Former legislator Billow Kerrow was on Monday charged with incitement to violence over his remarks on the security operation in Mandera district.
Mr Kerrow appeared before Nairobi Principal Magistrate Stella Muketi and denied uttering inciting words during a press conference he held at a Nairobi hotel in reference to the security operation in Mandera.
According to the charge sheet, Mr Kerrow is quoted saying: “All men are being rounded up and taken to a camp and subjected to beatings throughout, women have been asked to remain in their houses and the military goes to carry out operation for search of guns inside their houses and consequently we have reports of women who have been raped,” which were described as “an act which was calculated to prevent the enforcement of law”.
The former Mandera Central Member of Parliament (MP) was released on a cash bail of Sh100, 000, pending the hearing of the case on December 16.
Earlier Mr Kerrow’s lawyer Maobe Mao had made an application to have the case referred to the High Court arguing that his client’s constitutional rights had been breached.
Mr Mao claimed that the charge sheet was defective since the words used did not disclose any offence as stipulated in the Penal Code.
He maintained that Mr Kerrow’s words did not invite, request or urge disobedience of the law and insisted that the words were a mere representation of facts as had been reported by all mainstream media.
“This is an attempt to deny my client an opportunity to exercise his constitutional right to express himself,” Mr Mao claimed. “The reason for this charge is to shut him up and not because he has committed any offence.”
The prosecution led by Chief Inspector Githu Kahero opposed Mr Kerrow’s release on bail arguing that he (Kerrow) was likely to repeat the same incitement because hours after his release on Saturday, he repeated the same words at a press conference.
Mrs Muketi however ruled that the former legislator must take his plea because the court did to find the charge defective. She also said it was not the right time to delve into the arguments about the illegality of the charge.
Mr Kerrow spent two nights in police custody after he was arrested on Friday for allegedly making the comments in reference to the on-going security operation in Mandera.
The security operation was initiated to quell inter-clan fighting over the past few weeks that has left at least 24 people dead. By Friday, police had announced the recovery of 38 assault rifles and grenade launchers used by bandits and other organised gangs in the region.
Trouble in Mandera began when two ethnic communities, Gare and Murule began fighting a couple of weeks ago.
Mr Kerrow has however stood firm with his comments. “I stand by all the comments I made. I have no regrets to make whatsoever, because all that I said is factual and has been confirmed by Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) officials who toured the region,” he said.
On Saturday, dozens of his supporters were violently dispersed by the police when they turned up at the Gigiri police station to demand his release. The same group also held another demonstration in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate, where police shot in the air and lobbed tear gas at them.
Security forces comprising of the police and military personnel have been carrying out a house-to-house search in the region looking for guns and other weapons.