Nairobi — This week, Rev Samuel Kobia, chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, responds to your questions
Prosecuting hate speech, it seems, is very difficult considering that NCIC has to date not had a single conviction from the many cases that have gone to court. This has emboldened politicians and their supporters to continue spewing hate as they seek votes. What makes hate speech difficult to prosecute?
Joylene Amutabi, Kapenguria
The commission has had four convictions in cases of hate speech and ethnic contempt. Those convicted are Allan Wadi (Nairobi court), Fedelis Motwovita (Kithimani court), Hassan Abdi Noor (Machakos court) and Gichiri Ndua (Nairobi court). Nonetheless, there are challenges including interference of witnesses by suspects, in some cases hostility of the witnesses, technicalities of digital evidence and its admissibility in courts.
However, we have developed a handbook on investigation and prosecution of hate speech, which has been used to enhance the capacity of investigators and prosecutors across the country. It is important to note that the commission's mandate is to investigate cases of hate speech while the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions handles prosecution.
Notably, over 15 cases have been settled through conciliation, as mandated by the NCI Act 2008. The commission has continued to use various ways in the fight against hatemongers including sensitisation where members of the political class and the public in general are informed of the negative effects of hate mongering to the society and economy in general. In partnership with the National Police Service, we have equipped over 2,000 police officers across the country with monitoring gadgets that include body-worn cameras and camcorders. The commission continues to monitor the social media space, political rallies and social gatherings to identify hate mongers.
Clashes over land are a major hindrance to the peace, love and unity we all desire. How are you working with the National Land Commission (NLC) and other agencies to resolve such grievances?
Gabriel Changwony, Kitale
The commission has established linkages with the NLC, Ministry of Lands and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in its endeavour to address the root causes of such conflicts. The process is slow but rather steady. We remain optimistic that some results will be realised in due cause.
We have elections in the next two years. Why is NCIC ineffective in taking action on hate speech, particularly against politicians?
Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi
The commission has put in place elaborate measures to deliver peaceful elections in 2022. These include the review of NCI Act 2008 to strengthen the commission's work. The commission, together with other partners, has reactivated the Uwiano Platform for Peace to co-ordinate electoral-violence reduction initiatives. Uwiano Platform for Peace remains a critical vehicle for managing electoral violence in the country.
In addition, the commission is working closely with parliamentary committees to enhance peace. We will continue to train police investigators as well as sensitise members of the political class and political parties on the need to uphold peaceful processes.
The creation of NCIC was to partly implement the Agenda Four items of the National Accord following the 2007/2008 post-election violence. To what extent would you say that the commission has fulfilled its mandate?
Brian Irungu, Nairobi
The task of consolidating national cohesion in Kenya is a momentous one. This is because changing attitudes, mindsets and thinking is not an event but a process. Nevertheless, the commission has made major strides in this area for the past 10 years.It has invested a lot in building the capacity of Kenyans to appreciate each other and their own country, to embrace constructive ways of resolving the inevitable conflicts that arise between communities, to demand for inclusive political representation and to practice values that engender national unity. Indeed, I say without the fear of contradiction, that today Kenya is much better off than it was in 2007/2008.
Ethnic inequalities pose a huge challenge to national cohesion. What are you doing to ensure ethnic equality and justice in civil service?
Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi
The commission has advised government on how these ethnic disparities can be addressed within the civil service through the following ways: First, entrench fair and inclusive recruitment policies. The commission has lobbied the adoption of fair and inclusive employment policies in public institutions aimed at reducing discrimination on ethnic, racial and religious grounds by defining specific strategies to enhance inclusion of minority groups within the workplace. Fourteen public universities and 22 State corporations have adopted these policies.
Second, we provide evidence in court cases. Being the only accurate database on ethnic composition within the public service, the commission has supported ethnic inequality cases that have been brought forth by citizens against public institutions that have flouted the provisions of the law. A case against Migori County benefited from the commission's dataset.
Third, compliance notices. The commission issues compliance notices to all institutions that contravene the law, that is, Section 7(2) of the NCI Act and Section 65 of the County Government Act. And fourth, fame and shame. The commission recognises and awards public establishments that comply with Section 7 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act. On the other hand, it publishes a list of the non-compliant institutions on its website. These institutions are also submitted to the parliamentary committees on national cohesion.
There have been cases of some musicians producing songs containing hate speech but despite them being taken to court, their items are still accessible on the Internet. Is it possible for your commission to work with Internet service providers to pull down these pieces even as you pursue the court route?
Dickson Murimi, Kirinyaga
The commission is only mandated to investigate if the song or any other hateful comment on social media has violated the NCI Act 2008. After obtaining credible evidence and witnesses to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, the commission compiles a file with recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice. The hateful comments or song can only be pulled down if the case has met the threshold after a full hearing before a court of law, suspect found guilty and convicted.
Your commission has been running 'Peace clubs' in learning institutions, which have been very instrumental in mentoring the young people to cultivate virtues towards patriotism and humanity. With the closure of these institutions, has your commission seen it fit to reach out to the patrons of these clubs to enable them engage their members virtually?
Komen Moris, Eldoret
Amani Clubs in institutions is a long-term programme started by NCIC and the Ministry of Education in 2014. The aim of Amani Clubs is to promote good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence among students themselves and between schools and their neighbouring communities.
So far, over 1,500 clubs have been established across the country. To address the challenges posed by Covid-19, the commission and the Amani Clubs National leadership have established WhatsApp platforms at national, county and sub-county levels.The WhatsApp platforms are the forums through which the patrons, who are teachers in charge of Amani Clubs, continue to use to promote peace and cohesion related matters.
In addition, the commission has established an interactive Amani Club web portal that has content on Amani Clubs and offers an excellent platform for patrons and teachers to engage and interact on issues of peace, cohesion and integration.
NCIC has actively been engaged in peace and reconciliation efforts in Nakuru County that birthed the Peace Accord of 2012. What do you have to say about the current on and off hostilities between local communities that have resulted in deaths and destruction of properties?
Dan Murugu, Nakuru
The current ethnic conflict and animosity is unfortunate. Our engagement in 2012 was fruitful. For instance, the 2013 General Election in the county was peaceful. There was significant reduction in animosity between the communities. The Peace Accord was fully embraced and implemented by the communities. It was a locally-owned and driven peace and reconciliation process. However, the current violent conflict in some parts of Nakuru County has elicited concern not only to the commission but also to all the stakeholders. Therefore, in July 2020, we convened a peace dialogue meeting with various stakeholders, including the affected communities, who agreed to an immediate ceasefire and end to the conflict. We shall continue to work closely with other stakeholders to ensure peace and calmness is restored in the region.
Covid-19 pandemic has brought about untold challenges, including the growing stigma associated with the virus. How can NCIC intervene and help communities accommodate those who have recovered from the virus?
Kate Musyimi, Kitengela
Stigmatisation of Covid-19 positive people has become disturbingly common. According to the Health Digest, stigmatisation and fear of quarantine are hindering Kenya's fight against the virus.The greatness of a cohesive society, such as Kenya wishes to become, is judged by the way it treats the most vulnerable of its citizens - among whom are those stigmatised on account of being Covid-19 positive. There are at least three ways of intervening to alleviate the situation.
First is awareness-building for the general public, which should be carried out in a concerted manner under the leadership and co-ordination of the Ministry of Health. Second is to prepare communities and families for supporting the re-integration of Covid-19 recovered patients. Community leaders, including Nyumba Kumi, religious leaders and community-based organisations, are best placed to undertake such a responsibility. Third is the provision of psychological support to the victims of social stigma. This is the "soft" side of the war on Covid-19. For us to win the war, all citizens must contribute.
What policy initiatives is the commission implementing that could lead to a peaceful, harmonious and integrated Kenyan society?
Andrew Maranga Ratemo, Nairobi
The commission uses the 4Rs framework to advocate for policy interventions. These are redistribution, recognition, representation and reconciliation. NCIC believes that all policies should be evidence-based. Redistribution covers all policies surrounding the sharing of public resources by county and national governments, which must be done equitably. Recognition focuses on policies that enhance the inclusion of all ethnic, racial and religious groups in Kenya.
The commission acknowledges that a shared vision for Kenya will be established once all groups are recognised. The commission seeks the recognition of minority communities such as the Makonde as well as the inclusion of others such as the Nubi and Kuria in social economic processes.
Representation covers policies that focus on political representation of all citizen groups. It also ensures the elimination of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion and social origin.
Reconciliation focuses on policies that seek to enhance community and national healing. This includes an early warning and rapid response framework that can churn out conflict warning before violence breaks out.
Compiled by Walter Menya