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Kenya heightens action on hate speech ahead of August polls

by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan authorities said on Monday that they will enhance monitoring and prosecution of individuals spreading inflammatory messages to prevent inter-communal hostilities ahead of August 8 general elections.

Hassan Mohamed, CEO of National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said that state agencies will intensify vigilance during the campaign season to prevent spread of divisive messages that may jeopardize peace and stability as Kenya gears up for national polls in August.

"We have recruited additional personnel that have already been deployed to all counties to monitor campaign language by aspirants for various seats. Any contestant who incites communities will be liable for prosecution," said Mohamed.

He spoke in Nairobi during a meeting with leading broadcasters to discuss guidelines that should be adopted to prevent conflict sensitive reporting ahead of August polls.

The East African nation is already on a campaign mode as leaders from major political parties traverse the country to woo voters ahead of August polls that are expected to be hotly contested.

Mohamed emphasized that objective and fair reporting is key to facilitate peaceful elections at local and national level.

"As a commission, we have partnered with key stakeholders in government and the media to promote use of civil language by aspirants campaigning for various elective posts," Mohamed said.

He revealed the government has acquired the technology to monitor hate speech in political rallies and social media platforms.

"We have trained police officers and our monitors how to use audio recorders and cameras in order for them to identify and report cases of hate speech in real time," said Mohamed, adding that vernacular radio stations that spread divisive messages will be penalized.

Kenya’s ICT regulator will intensify vigilance to ensure that aspirants from major political parties do not spread propaganda and divisive rhetoric through traditional and new media platforms.

Francis Wangusi, director general of Communications Authority of Kenya, said that media houses will be required to abide by a stringent code of conduct to deter airing of content that would compromise national security during this election season.

"We expect the media to champion peace and unity during this electioneering period by denying a platform to individuals bent on dividing the country along tribal and sectarian lines through use of hateful language," Wangusi said.

He added the regulator will step up monitoring and law enforcement to minimize spread of propaganda during this campaign season.

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati © addresses the press in Nairobi, capital of Nairobi, Feb. 28, 2017. Wafula Chebukati said that IEBC will re-advertise the tender for ballot papers, after the commission canceled the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) tender as advertised on December 16, 2016. XINHUA PHOTO: JOHN OKOYO


Kenya’s polls body pledges support for fair party nominations

by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s electoral body said on Monday that it will offer logistical support to enable major political parties to conduct fair and peaceful nominations slated for mid April, officials said on Monday.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) CEO Ezra Chiloba said that a sound technical backup will enhance the capacity of leading political parties to conduct flawless nomination to select candidates that will vie for elective posts during the Aug. 8 national polls.

"Free and fair party nominations are key to strengthen democracy in the country and we are ready to be part of this exercise that commences in the middle of April," Chiloba told journalists in Nairobi.

The country’s electoral body recently announced that political parties are required by law to conduct their primaries in mid April to select candidates who will vie for local and national elective posts during the August general elections.

Chiloba said discussions with major political parties on modalities of conducting peaceful nominations are at an advanced stage.

"We are exploring areas of collaboration with political parties to strengthen their capacity to hold controversy free primaries ahead of August national polls. The primaries are an integral part of a democratic electoral process," said Chiloba.

Kenya’s major political parties that include the ruling Jubilee Party (JP) and its opposition rival, National Super Alliance (NASA) have sought the assistance of the electoral body to enable them carry out credible nominations in mid April.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party early this year requested the electoral body to oversee its primaries to prevent malpractices that might jeopardize its chances of reclaiming national leadership.

The mega opposition outfit is yet to declare whether the electoral body will oversee its primaries.

Chiloba clarified the electoral body is not mandated by the constitution to conduct party nominations but can only lend technical and logistical support to ensure they are successful.

"It is our hope that political parties have sound internal systems to facilitate peaceful primaries but we are ready to assist them achieve that objective," Chiloba said.

Kenyans will on August 8 troop polling stations countrywide to elect representatives of national and local governments that include the president, lawmakers and ward representatives.

Pundits have predicted a hotly contested election that will test the east African nation’s political stability and economic resilience.



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