Kenyans using social media to condemn hate speech

Social media users in Kenya have proved many experts wrong by turning to the platform to rebuke leaders seen to be promoting ethnic tension through hate speech, as the country prepares for general elections.

This has been witnessed in the aftermath of comments by one Kenyan Member of Parliament (MP), Ferdinand Waititu, who incited a charged crowd by saying that members of a certain tribe should leave the Kayole section of Nairobi. This led to violence, with the public attacking members of that community.

An arrest order for the MP was issued by Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecution, Keriako Tobiko, and Waititu appears in court today.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees fundamental rights including the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is, however, not absolute, and can be limited when exercised in a manner that violates the rights of others.

Social media, so often the vehicle for derogatory statements or malicious comments, has given the Kenyan population the platform from which to condemn the actions of Waititu. The number of tweets with the hash tag #waititu increased dramatically with many social media users condemning the utterances made by the politician.

“If we allow #Waititu to get away with this, on the flimsy grounds of- Apology- be rest assured we have sowed the seeds of hate in 2013,” tweeted James Smart.

Another hash tag, #ArrestWaititu, became popular with tweeters, with Kenyatta Otieno tweeting: “If Police Commisioner wont #ArrestWaititu and DPP takes it up seriously, then nobody should tell us about peaceful election nxt yr #Impunity.”

Back in 2010, hate speech allegations saw three Kenyan MPs, Kuria MP Wilfred Machage, Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi and Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, appear in court. Several others have also been arraigned in court and charged with the same. However, none have been put behind bars, something that is of great concern to Kenyans.

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