By Shitemi Khamadi
It is an election — a tense and toxic-talk season — yet most hate speech cases against politicians don’t go far. The irony of this is not lost on those who know the damage that loose-tongued politicians can do to an ethnically sensitive country like ours.
But the collapse of these cases cannot be entirely blamed on the Judiciary. It is the prosecution that has failed Kenyans by carrying out shoddy investigations and taking to court defective cases with insufficient evidence top sustain a charge.
Freedom of expression is precious. The ability to speak your mind and express your thoughts and ideas is something many fought for and died. But the Constitution does guarantee freedom of speech without providing limitations.
Hate speech, propaganda to war, incitement to violence and advocacy to hatred are some of the limitations. These restrictions have a history. The most recent and poignant history is the 2007/08 post-election violence which is still fresh in our memories.
Because loose tongues caused bloodshed and suffering, Kenyans decided to tame this through a robust Constitution with a progressive of Bill of Rights.
In the past two weeks, hate speech cases involving Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Kikuyu MP Ferdinand Waititu, Gatundu MP Moses Kuria and political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi were terminated over legal technicalities.
The fate of other cases facing MPs Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba), Junet Mohammed(Migori), Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi Women’s Rep) and Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama is yet to be known.
For some cases like Ngunyi’s, the court said it was an abuse of the court process. Perhaps, here is where the rain starts to beat us. At times, because of public demand, people are hurled into courts without proper evidence, only for them to be released. This undermines the fight against impunity.
The police and National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) have warned politicians against inciting the public. But these warnings appear to be mere public relations exercise done particularly in the election season.
The police are crucial in the fight against hate speech. While the Director of Public Prosecutions has occasionally been replacing police officers as prosecutors with lawyers, police still do the investigations.
It is at the investigations stage that cases are either won or lost. The manner in which these cases have been decided upon and others are likely to inform that someone slept on the job or looked the other way for selfish interests.
For some reason, Kenyans follow their politicians. They believe what they say and abide by instructions they give. This makes politicians very pivotal tools in nation building and cohesion. Since they can make or break the Republic, they need to be watched carefully, especially when they speak in the local dialects.
Vigilance is what Kenyans need. Those who spew hate should be shunned including not being elected while at the same time called out by the masses. The masses hold the key to ending incitement comments by ensuring people in position of authority are doing what taxpayers pay them to do.
The writer is a blogger. Twitter @Oleshitemi