Accessibility links

Kenyan Rights Commissioner Denounces ‘Provocative Statements’ Ahead of Referendum

  • Peter Clottey

The chairperson of Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has expressed concern that pronouncements by the president, the prime minister as well as other government officials could incite violence ahead of the 4th August referendum.

Florence Simbiri-Jaoko has called on President Mwai Kibaki and former President Daniel Arap Moi to exercise restraint after both leaders traded what has been described as sharp jabs in the campaign for the 4th August referendum.

“We have been monitoring the campaigns as well as the civic education and some of the things that the commission is concerned (with) are the type of language and especially inflammatory utterances that are being made by politicians on both sides. Our concern is based on the fact that in 2007, we witnessed similar utterances that eventually set the ground for the kind of violence that we saw during the 2007 election,” she said.

The KNCHR said President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and William Ruto, Minister for Higher Education among others flouted the law while campaigning ahead of the referendum.

Kenya's former President Daniel Arap Moi

Kenya's former President Daniel Arap Moi

In its report, the rights commission also accused several cabinet ministers, legislators and religious leaders from both the “Yes” and “No” camps of offences, including incitement to violence, uttering inflammatory speeches, peddling of falsehoods and misuse of state resources during the campaigns.

Chairperson Simbiri-Jaoko recalled that similar provocative statements nearly plunged Kenya into a deep crisis.

“That is what we are afraid of because the fact of the matter is that when you use inflammatory language, when you stigmatize especially communities, chances are that people will feel dissatisfied with those kinds of utterances. And sometimes the manner in which they settle scores is by attacking members of the opposite communities or the communities that they perceive as their rivals,” Simbiri-Jaoko said.

The commission accused President Kibaki of breaking the law by creating districts and elevating a teachers training college to a public university seen by analysts as a calculated ploy to win cheap support for his “Yes” campaign in the upcoming referendum.

Prime Minister Odinga reportedly told a rally that Kenyans will elect chiefs under the proposed constitution, while Mr. Ruto reportedly said at a prayer meeting that the document will allow homosexuality.

KNCHR chairperson Florence Simbiri-Jaoko said her organization has documentary evidence, including videos of politicians and religious leaders breaking the law.

She demanded that Kenya’s police prosecute the perpetrators.