NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 7 – The Ufungamano Joint forum of Religious Organisations (U-JFRO) has asked the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to take action against politicians inciting the public.
The forum warns that the continuous trading of accusations by political rivals over what have been dubbed historical injustices will lead to violence.
In a statement read by Reverend Geoffrey Njuguna of the Deliverance Church on Thursday, the organisation implored politicians to approach the land issue with extreme caution.
“We also urge IEBC and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission to spare no effort in disciplining those bent on inciting the public during their campaigns irrespective of their stature.”
The organisation commended the NCIC, the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo and government spokesman Muthui Kariuki for taking a stand against the use of land in campaigns.
The religious leaders were adamant that land is still a raw subject given it is viewed as one of the catalyst to the 2007/2008 Post Election Violence (PEV).
“Remember we are coming from an election that became very chaotic. We support what the government is doing in saying please let us avoid issues that are emotive and we are saying can our politicians this time around not say or do things that are likely to cause chaos after this elections.”
The NCIC vice-chairperson, Milly Lwanga, however made it clear that none of the statements made so far on the subject of land constitute hate speech and the commission therefore has no grounds on which to prosecute.
“You will find for example people are defining insults as hate speech. We have tried to issue guidelines as to what hate speech is as defined by the law because we cannot operate outside the law.”
The Institution of Surveyors in Kenya (ISK) also added their voice to those calling on politicians to desist from opening up old wounds in their campaigns.
“Comments by politicians on land are a recipe for derailing meaningful reforms as they do not enhance the legal framework for land reforms,” ISK Collins Owour said at a press conference calling for the immediate gazettement of the chair and members of the National Land Commission.
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) in a statement sent to newsrooms on Tuesday accused the NCIC and Kimaiyo of attempting to censor electoral debate by asking politicians to tread carefully when speaking on historical injustices in their campaigns.
“The resolution of historical injustices and land issues are central to bringing lasting peace and national cohesion in Kenya and every presidential aspirant must explain to Kenyans their ability to resolve these issues.”
“These warnings are a clear intention by a section of government to sensor debate in the presidential campaign and protect some presidential aspirants from public scrutiny.”
Reverend Njuguna expressed concern that the elections might not be completed on March 4 given it is the first time the country will be voting in six leaders as opposed to the traditional three.
“The other concerned that has been raised is whether one day will be sufficient to do all that we are doing. For a long time people have thought of separating the presidential election from the other elections like they do in other countries.”
The clergymen also expressed dissatisfaction at the way the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is conducting voter education with the U-JFRO Secretary, Charles Wambugu, saying it has fallen short.
“If they [IEBC] fail Kenyans this time round obviously they will not be forgiven for a very long time. We are facing a very critical time when we are electing so many people in so many different positions.”
“I was in my village this weekend and I was amazed when people said they have never seen anybody from IEBC to tell them how to elect the president, how to elect all these others.”
The religious leaders urged Kenyans to elect leaders with good education and management skills and to respect the outcome of the elections to ensure the country remains on the path to prosperity.
“Let us elect only those men and women of integrity with good education and proper leadership or management experience.”