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To fight hate speech, aggression might not be the way

The potential to create conflict and its harmful effects was evident this week when Meru Senator Mithika Linturi used a metaphor that was previously used to mark subjects for elimination at a public rally.

For those who can remember, “madoadoa” in a political context refers not to spots but to small entities that can be easily and swiftly removed. In the Rift Valley in 2008 and other electoral-fuelled clashes, it referred to unwanted communities.

Although Deputy President William Ruto apologized for his error-prone ally the following day, both sides made a meal of the issue.

Dr Ruto’s allies said the apology was enough, and pointed at instances where Raila Odinga’s allies had made inflammatory statements and gone unpunished, while Mr Odinga’s supporters said the apology was late and the statement an indicator of the thinking within the Deputy President’s camp.

Mr Linturi was arrested and let go on bail after the National Cohesion and Integration Commission asked for it.

The state is yet to successfully prosecute a case of hate speech and incitement to violence against a politician, which suggests that it is unable to clamp down on the actions and statements of politicians that could result in violence.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, a veteran of prosecution for hate speech and related crimes, suggests that the way out is self-regulation, essentially having politicians put national interest ahead of theirs and thinking before they speak.

Mr Kuria said: “There is no point charging the politicians because the High Court declared Section 96 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Incitement to violence and disobedience to the law) unconstitutional. That ruling still stands.”

He said the only punishment that the politicians suffer is pre-plea detention and higher bail terms: Mr Linturi was taken on an involuntary tour of Rift Valley following his arrest.

“I can only say the ultimate solution is self-regulation among the political class and adherence to a Code of Conduct,” he concluded.

Ahead of the election, the business class could help push politicians towards adherence to a Code of Conduct that they ascribe to.

At the end of the day, it seems, it would work better if less aggressive means are employed.

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