By Roselyne Obala
Nairobi, Kenya: The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has recruited over 100 cohesion overseers to monitor politicians who engage in hate speech during campaigns.
The commission has also announced a toll-free number - 15666 - to be used by the Cohesion Monitors to send alerts for speedy interventions.
NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia, while addressing the monitors who will be undergoing a two-day training at KCB Training Centre in Karen.
He further cautioned politicians against making inflammatory statements during their campaigns, which are likely to cause tension or incite communities.
“The commission is training 105 cohesion monitors to observe the cohesion status in each of the 47 counties,” he said.
Dr Kibunjia took issue with the ongoing campaigns, faulting politicians and urged them to desist from employing emotive issues such as land as their campaign tools.
“With the country facing such a complex and historic election, politicians are likely to go to any lengths to ensure victory,” he noted.
He noted that land had remained a thorny issue in Kenya and that is why the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was formed to handle historical injustices.
“These are issues that led to the violence that rocked the country in 2008. We have learnt from the commissions and our leaders should refrain from using them as their campaign platform,” he appealed.
Kibunjia noted that the cohesion monitors, apart from being mandated to report on hate speech, are also required to ensure that the country remains peaceful during and after the elections.
“During the training sessions, the monitors will be taught on a number of factors such as social cohesion, early warning and response mechanisms as well as hate speech,” he stated.
Kibunjia explained that while hate speech has been identified as playing a major role in instigating violence as was the case in 2008, there are other issues the monitors must look out for.
He stressed that the observers will be required to identify and report to the commission issues that are likely to inhibit the attainment of harmonious relations between different ethnic groups by promoting discrimination.
“While the country is focusing mainly on the forthcoming polls, not many pay attention to what will happen after,” he stated.
He continued, “Reports received by the commission will go a long way in focusing the country on the devolved governments and factors that may hinder its proper implementation.”
Kibunjia said they have partnered with three mobile service providers Safaricom, Airtel and Orange while discussions are ongoing to incorporate Yu.
“Our monitors will send alerts and also emails on the situation on the ground. The commission will take action and make it public,” he said, adding that in areas with low network coverage, the monitors will devise ways of contacting the commission.
He recalled that in 2007, after the disputed General Election, Kenyans received inciting message through the Short Messaging Service.
“What we witnessed in 2007 was not by accident; we had not put the necessary measures in place to control the SMS,” he added.