, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 10 – Political Scientist Godfrey Mutahi Ngunyi on Monday pleaded not guilty to four counts of inciting ethnic contempt after the High Court declined to temporarily halt his prosecution pending the hearing and determination of a petition he’s filed challenging it.
Contempt is defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “the feeling that a person or a thing is worthless or beneath consideration.”
On denying that these are the feelings that he sought to elicit through tweets he posted on August 18, 21 and 23, Ngunyi was released by Chief Magistrate Daniel Ogembo on a Sh500,000 bond with a surety of the same amount and with the alternative of paying Sh200,000 in a cash bail to secure his release.
The first of the tweets in question, posted on August 18, states: “Raila should be put on trial. The Judge: Poverty Stricken Luos.”
Two others, posted in succession on August 21, read: “The Luo nation is spell bound by Raila. Period. That is why they call him Baba like Nyayo. In fact the only Baba after Nyayo. Mental slavery,” and, “Are Luos poor? No idea. They should tell us. Are there poverty stricken Luos. Yes. Statistics: 82 percent of people in Bondo live below poverty line.”
The last of the tweets for which he’s been charged reads: “Peace to Raila and his slaves. No more attacks for now. I promise.”
All of which, Ngunyi argued when seeking orders that would halt his prosecution, were within his rights to freely express.
But when declining to issue the above orders, Justice Joseph Onguto found that the freedom of expression was not absolute.
He also said Ngunyi had failed to demonstrate how the charges preferred against him were, “selective or discriminatory.”
Ngunyi had argued that he was not the first to post such comments and should therefore not be the first to be persecuted for them.
He also argued that there couldn’t possibly be sufficient evidence to sustain his prosecution and that the rules of natural justice were not followed.
But Justice Onguto said that was for the trial court to determine and pointed out that when Ngunyi appeared before the National Cohesion and Integration Commission on September 1, in response to summons, he sought an adjournment but never returned for questioning on September 3; instead he sent a letter.
Had he honoured the date, Onguto said, Ngunyi would have had the opportunity to raise the questions he’d raised in his application.
Onguto therefore found that Ngunyi had failed to demonstrate how the rule of justice had been abused or exceptional circumstances that would warrant the hindrance of the criminal proceedings.
Among those listed as prosecution witnesses is Law Society of Kenya CEO Apollo Mboya who formally complained about Ngunyi’s tweets to the NCIC.
The Chief Magistrates court will begin hearing the prosecution’s case against Ngunyi on January 13.