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NCIC now turns eye on social media

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) on Thursday said it will soon start monitoring hate speech posted on social networks as well as commentaries on news websites.

Dr Kibunjia explained that the commission had recruited 40 new staff, who report to the commission in April, and that some of them would be charged with the responsibility.

He noted that that Kenyans in the Diaspora were most culpable arguing that the Internet had become a convenient forum to advance negative ethnic sentiments that undermine integration.

"Facebook, Twitter and such networks will be our main focus and I can tell you most of the hate speech comes from the Diaspora not internally. But one of the experts who is coming in from April 1 will be looking at this issue and how we can address it so as to stem it," he said.

The NCIC also accused the police of frustrating its work saying they had failed to arrest and prosecute influential leaders who propagated ethnic animosity.

Dr Kibunjia said the force should have moved in to contain the public spat between Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the one hand, and Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North Member of Parliament, William Ruto on the other.

He added that the commission needed the full support of the police and the Judiciary if its duty as the watchdog over hate speech was to bear fruit.

"The police should have taken action from the very beginning," he said.

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Dr Kibunjia who was speaking during a breakfast meeting with journalists and legislators added that his commission would work with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (once it come into the effect) to ensure that any person with political ambitions for next year\’s elections who is guilty of inciting public hatred, is disqualified.

Nominated MP Sophia Abdi however took issue with the commission saying it should be impartial in its work. She asked the commission to ensure that all persons found guilty of inciting tribal hatred were held to account without any prejudice.

"When you started, you started in a good way but people started feeling like there was discrimination in your work. Personally when I saw how swift you were in dealing with Machage (Wilfred, Kuria MP), who is a minority, then I started asking questions. It was like you were only targeting certain people," she argued. 

Dr Kibunjia however defended his commission from the accusations saying that the Attorney General was slowing down its efforts. He explained that his commission always forwarded hate speech cases to the AG\’s office which is supposed to initiate prosecution.

"There\’s lethargy in some issues and there are other instances where the AG move very fast to prosecute. They prosecute some issues and leave out others and when we ask why, we don\’t get any explanation. We simply don\’t understand," he said.

Karachuonyo MP James Rege also challenged the commission to take its integration campaigns to the grassroots and further called for an extension of its mandate. He proposed that the commission opens an office in the headquarters of every county, once the devolution system was set up.

He also challenged fellow lawmakers to promote peace at all times and avoid using the tribal card so as to propel their political ambitions.

"It\’s amazing that when we (politicians) are in Parliament or when we meet at hotels we are such good friends. But when we meet out there in funerals or any such public forum we want to show our muscles. It is so bad," he said.

Ms Abdi also asked Kenyans to respect institutions that had been created to promote national reforms.

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"There are many bodies that we put in place as a country but when they start working, we start throwing stones and mud at them. We need to appreciate and accept these institutions because that is the only way they will perform," he said.

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