, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has absolved Prime Minister Raila Odinga from accusations of stirring ethnic division by making remarks with tribal connotations.
The NCIC which had previously written to the PM asking him to clarify statements he made on a local FM station said the complaint made by PNU spokesman Moses Kuria against the PM did not amount to hate speech.
NCIC chairperson Mzalendo Kibunjia said the utterances allegedly made by the PM neither complied nor manifested as hate speech as defined by the National Cohesion and Integration Act.
“The team of the commissioners having taken into account all evidence before it and the relevant circumstances surrounding the matter has decided not issue a compliance notice in respect of the allegation of hate speech in view of an erroneous interpretation on the part of the complainant and find under section 56 (6) (c) the complaint was not proven,” said Dr Kibunjia.
The NCIC said the commission questioned all the involved parties in depth including the PM who was the respondent, the complainant Mr Kuria as well the vernacular radio station.
“Recognising the significance of the office represented by the respondent, the delicate situation and location (Rift Valley) to which the utterances were addressed, the commission determined that additional information be sought from both parties before final decision is made. Discussions were held with Mr Odinga and he was interrogated on his presentation during that live show,” he said.
Further, the commission explained that the complainant was also given a chance to participate in the interpretation of the recording in issue, and allowed him to point out his areas of concern.
“In applying the law the proof by inference to section 13 the National Cohesion and Integration Act addressing hate speech evidentially standard in relation to the insistence of intent the commission agrees that such a standard would be met only if the words or statements alleged to be inciting were read not only in abstract but also in view of the whole,” he said.
During the interview in question the Premier asked the Rift Valley community not to be swayed by sweets and to continue with their political fight.
The commission found that the PM could have used other words other than use words which could be construed to mean hate speech. The commission also found in its capacity that the radio station could have done more to ensure that the words uttered by the PM were not misinterpreted.
“Rather than use fight, the PM should have used struggle,” said the NCIC Chair.
The commission however declined to make known the verdict against five other individuals who were also separately implicated in hate speech cases.
Dr Kibunjia said the only reason the commission had spoken out on the Prime Minister’s case was because he held an influential public office and because the complainant also took the matter to the media.
“Given the fact that this complaint was not only published in the local dailies but was accompanied by the media during the presentation of the complainant, it is fair that the media and the public be advised of our findings, which has been duly conveyed to both the complainant and the respondent,” he said.
In Mr Kuria’s complaint the PM allegedly stated that people from the Rift Valley Community were being enticed with sweets by the people they were fighting against during the 2007 general election. Mr Kuria’s concerns were that the said remarks by the PM could have roused tribal divisions.
If found guilty, the PM would have had 14 days within which he would have to make a public apology and withdraw the statement or have the matter forwarded to the Attorney General for prosecution.
If found guilty by the AG, such persons risk being jailed for five years, fined for Sh1 million or both.