News / Africa

Kenya Cracks Down on Hate Speech Before Elections

Audio executive Joshua Arap Sang named in an International Criminal Court (ICC) list of suspects, addresses a news conference in Nairobi in this December 16, 2010 file photo.Audio executive Joshua Arap Sang named in an International Criminal Court (ICC) list of suspects, addresses a news conference in Nairobi in this December 16, 2010 file photo.
x
Audio executive Joshua Arap Sang named in an International Criminal Court (ICC) list of suspects, addresses a news conference in Nairobi in this December 16, 2010 file photo.
Audio executive Joshua Arap Sang named in an International Criminal Court (ICC) list of suspects, addresses a news conference in Nairobi in this December 16, 2010 file photo.
Roopa Gogineni
During the 2007/2008 post-election crisis and violence in Kenya, hate speech on native language radio stations and online fanned ethnic tensions.  This time around, the government is heavily monitoring the media and is threatening prosecution.  

With little more than a week remaining until Kenya’s presidential elections, media monitors watch closely for language that could once again incite violence.  With a society wracked by ethnic divisions, the line between ordinary political dialogue and potentially inflammatory rhetoric is blurry.

Lessons from the last election loom.

Joshua Arap Sang, a Kalenjin language radio broadcaster, currently awaits trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Sang is accused of committing crimes against humanity by “explicitly revealing a desire to expel the Kikuyus,” according to an ICC report.

David Mwangi, a cab driver in Nairobi, listens to Kikuyu language radio stations.

“Now they are very scared of ICC," he said.

He says the broadcasts are outwardly calling for a peaceful election, but are still subtly charged.

"They say it indirectly, not directly.  The people who hear the language understand what is going on.  So it is indirect, with proverbs.  It is very hidden and secret," he said. 

In the aftermath of the last election, Kenya criminalized the use of hate speech and set up the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to monitor and investigate alleged cases.

Assistant Director Kyalo Mwengi and his colleagues have confirmed several complaints filed against native language radio stations.

"These are messages that contain insulting, threatening and abusive utterances that are likely to incite ethnic animosity,” he said.

He believes monitoring has had a deterrent effect but that the tendency of Kenyan politicians to exploit the media remains - they own most of the country's radio stations.

"During the day they are very good, but most of the complaints that have been reported to the commission are broadcasts that have been done after ten o’clock at night," he said.  "It is an hour where most of the people are home.  A majority of the people who listen to the vernacular stations are farmers or workers in factories who get home a bit late."

The NCIC has also established a department headed by a cybercrime expert to scan social media for incendiary language.  Dozens of offenders have been identified on Facebook, Twitter, and on blogs.  At least two have been referred to the director of public prosecution and may face jail time.

The online space is watched by non-governmental groups as well.

“We still haven’t been able to say that this incidence of violence is directly related to this speech that happened - you can’t make that kind of causal relationship.  What we say is that dangerous speech has a high potential to catalyze violence," said Angela Crandall, who works with Umati, an arm of the Uchaguzi election-monitoring project.

Crandall says that analyzing this speech can serve as an early warning system.  Umati recently published a report on the trending topics, phrases, and sentiments it found online in seven different Kenyan languages.

"We are worried... on March 5th, or whenever the results come out we don’t want to look back, and say we were sitting on all of this information and didn’t do anything," she said.

Umati and Uchaguzi forward information that they believe requires action to government partners.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs