News 2008


Dangerous path: Ethnicity law plan wins support

Daily Nation

Story by NATION Reporter

Publication Date: 3/8/2008

President Kibaki’s proposal to table laws curbing negative ethnicity received praise.

The President in the State opening of the 10th Parliament, proposed to the House a comprehensive policy that would ensure national security and social cohesion were not threatened by negative ethnicity.

The President’s speech echoed ODM leader Raila Odinga’s sentiments on a national conference on negative ethnicity, which he recommended during a parliamentary group meeting.

Both leaders seemed to be reading from the same script as they blamed hate speech for the violence that followed the December General Election.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said the announcement came at the right time since it would criminalise negative ethnicity.

Positive step

Commissioner Hassan Omar said Kenyans did not bother about their ethnicity, only that it was always aroused by politicians during campaigns for general election. “This is a positive step and we believe it will contain the ruthless manifestation of negative ethnicity that we have witnessed recently,” Mr Omar said.

He said the commission had called for the criminalisation of hate speech but most leaders seemed to ignore them.

He noted that some issues not finalised during the Lancaster Conference, which granted Kenya independence, should have been dealt with before growing into the recent crisis which set tribes against each other.

Mr Omar said the commission was ready to advise the Government on matters of law regarding the implementation of the legislation.

Negative ethnicity

Imenti North MP Gitobu Imanyara said he was aware that a committee from both PNU and ODM had been formed to look into the issue of negative ethnicity and its implications.

He said due to lack of adequate resources some people were favoured in acquisition of jobs. Noting that the best constitutions were made during crisis time, Mr Imanyara, a lawyer by profession, said the recent violence in several parts of the country were a blessing in disguise.

He asked Kenyans to seize the opportunity to thrash out problems that had been pending for a long time. “Nobody can run away from his or her ethnicity ... we need to contain those who use it negatively during the time of elections,” Mr Imanyara said.

He recommended that members of the committee to be formed to pursue the agenda be those who had a clean record and had in some way worked towards national cohesion.

The legislation to be created, Mr Imanyara said, should bring on board and protect the interests of minority tribes.

While announcing the plans for the law, President Kibaki noted that there was need for political leaders to assure Kenyans that they can live, own property and do business in any part of the country without prejudice, harassment or persecution.