Matiang’i: State won’t switch off Internet but we’re watching you

Thursday, July 1st, 2021 00:00 |
From left to right: Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and the Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission Samuel Kobia during the launch of  the National Cohesion and Integration Commission Strategic Plan at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi yesterday. Photo/PD/Kenna Claude

Zadock Angira and KNA

The government will not shut down the internet in response to political crises but will be ruthless with those using social media to incite the public, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said yesterday.

Speaking during the launch of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission’s (NCIC) strategic plan at the Bomas of Kenya, the CS said the government was fully prepared for next year’s election.

“We will not do things like switch off the Internet, it will not happen here. We will not harass people but because we are confident, we will act according to the law and call people to account,” he said.

 “To those who break the law, we will arrange a good meeting between you and the law.

Any threats to the vision of Kenya should be met with the full force of law,” he added.

The Interior CS said the security agencies were ready to handle any eventualities in next year’s election.

“We are more prepared than we were in 2013 and 2017 to play our role. We will play our role effectively,” he said.

Last month, the NCIC raised concern about the increased cases of hate speech, incitement and political intolerance as the 2022 General Election draws closer. 

It warned that there was a likelihood of ethnic violence in some parts of the country including Marsabit, Turkana and West Pokot counties.

NCIC chairman Samuel Kobia said politicians had started beating drums of war and inciting their supporters in what he said could spark violence.

He disclosed that the commission had deployed a robust detection, reporting and investigation mechanism to deal with hatemongers.

Chief Justice Martha Koome  called for early resolution of electoral disputes ahead of the election.

She urged NCIC and the Judiciary Committee on Elections to provide proper resolution mechanisms of electoral disputes to forestall poll-related violence.

In a speech read on her behalf by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu at the launch of the strategic plan, Koome warned that the country risked degenerating into violence because of inflammatory talk by politicians.

“It remains a blemish on our nationhood and our democracy that the regular exercise of the right to vote is so often characterised by divisive and hateful statements and rhetoric.

This, regrettably, sometimes made by those we look up to, and those who should know better,” Koome said.

Cogent evidence

She said the Judiciary can only convict suspects based on cogent evidence and urged NCIC to present watertight evidence to the courts.

“We cannot convict in the absence of cogent evidence. Let all justice chain partners do their part, the Judiciary will do hers,” she said, asserting that relevant stakeholders must ensure efficient, effective and timely resolution of election related disputes and offenses. 

Koome said the Commission has a solemn statutory responsibility to facilitate and promote equality of opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence between people of different ethnic and racial communities.

“This weighty responsibility is particularly accentuated during the election period. It is important that you immediately embark on the implementation of the activities within the Strategic Plan,” she said.

In January, the cohesion commission unveiled a plan to curb hate speech and incitement ahead of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum and the 2022 election campaigns.

In February, NCIC mapped out five towns  – Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Mombasa and Nakuru  – as possible hotspots for violence during next year’s election campaigns.

The commission said the areas are being monitored closely as the country has reached new levels of incitement with heightened political activities and rhetoric that point to a possible repeat of the 2007/8 elections violence.

In Nairobi, the team cited the city’s seven slums as recruitment grounds for political activities. 

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