NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) revealed on Thursday that it has been snooping on Kenyans’ text messages for the past one year, looking out for hate speech.
NCIC Commissioner Halakhe Waqo said the move was aimed at sustaining harmonious relationships among Kenyans as well preventing tribal conflicts in the future.
He argued that the overriding need to facilitate integration in the country superseded the right to an individual’s privacy as it risked threatening national security.
“Yes, we do recognise that privacy is very important for an individual but public security and safety is much more important. We want to pin down that breach in public safety and security,” he said.
Commissioner Waqo further explained that NCIC had been partnering with mobile service providers as well as security agents in the country to facilitate the scrutiny. He added that the NCIC would also broaden its partnerships with other like-minded institutions in order to promote harmony.
“For example, if it is social media-based like Facebook, Twitter and blogs we work with the Cyber Crime Unit of the CID as well as other security institutions. And we have also linked with telecommunication system providers,” he said.
The NCIC further said that it would soon release a detailed report of its findings on the SMS survey.
Mr Waqo also noted that the commission was still concerned with hate messages that were propagated on social networks. The NCIC has already recruited 40 new staff to monitor undesirable messages on such networks.
“Outside the political rallies and public forums, there are many other instruments that have been used to create disharmony in this country so it has been something that has been of concern to us since our establishment as a commission,” he argued.
He also asked the government to upscale public education on the Agenda IV items in order to increase public participation in the country’s governance structures. According to a report commissioned by the Africa Peace Forum, only 28 percent of Kenyans understand the correlation of Agenda IV items and reforms in the country.
Constitutional and institutional reforms, restoration of fundamental human rights, promotion of reconciliation as well as the fostering of transparency are some of the items targeted in Agenda IV.
“We shouldn’t keep singing about Agenda IV everyday rather we need to break down the jargon and explain it bit by bit so that Kenyans know what it entails,” he said.
Commissioner Waqo also asked the country’s political elite not to polarise the country along social lines. He emphasised the need for politicians to facilitate peace and unity, especially as the country geared up for next year’s elections.
“Sometimes politicians take Kenyans hostage and so we really need to have a proper way of educating Kenyans so that they can understand their role and assume their responsibilities rightfully,” he said.
He also reiterated the role of the media in sustaining peace and unity.
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