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Kenyan Official Calls For Referendum Campaign Delay

The chairman of Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has called for the investigation and prosecution of politicians who propagate hate in their speeches thus escalating tensions in the country.

Mzalendo Kibunja said the NCIC has petitioned both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to temporarily postpone all campaigning ahead of the 4 August referendum on Kenya’s proposed constitution.

“What we are saying is that since the draft constitution was launched in Nairobi, there have been emerged very opposite positions of leaders who are opposed or supporting the draft constitution. And, that these positions are greatly polarizing the country to the extent where really hatred is already creeping in (to) our country,” he said.

This comes after Sunday’s twin explosions that killed six people and wounded more than 100. The blasts occurred shortly after a campaign rally at Uhuru Park in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The government has launched a full-scale investigation into the twin blasts. But, the National Council of Churches of Kenya blames the government for the violence. President Mwai Kibaki, in a statement, condemned the attacks. No one has claimed responsibility.

Chairman Kibunja told VOA the NCIC has presented evidence to both the attorney general and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) against politicians who he said are spreading hate speech across the country.

He also called for the postponement of the ongoing referendum campaign.

“Considering what happened (violence) in 2008 and 2005, we are asking that the two principals, President Kibaki and (Prime Minister) Raila Odinga, suspend the campaigns until the official campaign period begins which we understand is supposed to be July 13th,” he said.

Kenyans are scheduled to decide in a referendum whether to accept or reject the proposed draft constitution. This comes after the Interim Independent Electoral Commission announced on 19th May that the official campaign period for the referendum would begin on 13th July, two days ahead of the voting.

Chairman Kibunja said the NCIC will continue gathering evidence against people instigating hate speech.

“That is why, as a commission, we have summoned about 20 people. We have also recommend(ed) prosecution of three people, and we have gathered this evidence, and we have presented them to the commissioner of the police and attorney general. Whereas, the other ones, we have summoned them in a view of trying to investigate and collect more evidence that can stand in court, as hate speech,” Kibunja said.

Kibunja also urged Kenyans to condemn any form of hate speech since he said the 2007 post-election violence is still fresh in the minds of many people.