Kenya arrests two lawmakers over incitement remarks

12:18, June 16, 2010      

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Kenya's authorities are holding two lawmakers on Tuesday over incitement remarks made in Nairobi last week as the campaign against the proposed new constitution gains momentum across the east African nation.

The police arrested Roads Assistant Minister Wilfred Machage and Mt Elgon Member of Parliament Fred Kapondi early Tuesday and they are being held for questioning.

Police said Machage was arrested when he presented himself to the CID while Kapondi who represents a constituency that was at the centre of a conflict involving ragtag militia against residents was arrested in his parliamentary office.

"We are holding the two for questions," a senior police officer who sought anonymity told Xinhua by telephone.

The duo is accused of making incitement remarks during the launch of a secretariat for people opposed to the new constitution.

On June 1, President Mwai Kibaki ordered the police and commissioners of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to take action against any leader found to be inciting Kenyans regardless of his or her status.

Following the order, NCIC swung into action and have summoned Higher Education Minister William Ruto who is leading campaigns against the draft constitution over hate speech claims.

The commission has also summoned four other lawmakers for making inflammatory statements during their campaigns for the August 4 referendum.

The commission's Chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia said on Monday that there was substantial evidence implicating the lawmakers in hate speech.

Kibunjia said that the commission had received complaints from members of the public on what it termed "irresponsible utterances" by the leaders. "Based on the significant proof that we have in our possession, we have issued Cessation Notices to the said persons, requested the security forces charge them accordingly and closely monitor public remarks by the said persons particularly during the referendum period," he said.

Kibunjia said that the commission issued the notices on Friday and that the mentioned persons would have two weeks within which to retract their statements and make a public apology.

He said the evidence had been handed over to the CID for further investigations. "We worked closely with the police and based on the substantial evidence, we have issued summons to the said persons and requested the security agencies to investigate with a view to prosecution," Kibunjia said.

The National Cohesion and Integration Act allows the commission to seek the help of the courts if a person fails to heed its summons.

Those found guilty of hate speech risk being fined 1 million shillings (about 125,000 U.S. dollars) or to serve a prison term not exceeding five years or both.

Source: Xinhua


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