ODM leader Raila Odinga has faulted plan to criminalise the ‘hustler’ slogan associated with Deputy President William Ruto and his allies.
Raila, in a statement to newsrooms yesterday, said he had learnt of proposals by Parliament’s National Security Committee that seek to criminalise Ruto’s ‘hustlers versus dynasties’ campaign slogan.
The proposed punishment are severe fines, jail time and even removal from office for any leader who propagates the slogan.
While maintaining that he had on several occasions explained that the slogan was dangerous given its similarity to Adolf Hitler’s national socialism most often referred to as ‘Nazism’ and its subsequent damage to the world, he strongly appealed to MPs to drop any attempt to legislate against the hustlers tag.
Echoing the sentiments of Siaya Senator James Orengo, the ODM leader said, while cognisant of the dangers posed by the slogan, it was important to remember that the country had come a long way in fighting for the freedom of speech and association hence no need to criminalise hustlers tag.
“As a country, we fought for, and should respect free speech and association. We should be able to allow the deputy president and his team to continue with their chosen slogan without any inhibitions,” Raila said.
The ODM leader, however, made it clear that while the legislative route may not be the way to go in debunking the narrative he has termed as ‘dangerous’, he hoped that the public would be able to see through it.
“Those of us who see its dangers should continue educating our people against falling for it. I have faith that Kenyans will see through this divisive and potentially deadly rhetoric and its attacks on fellow Kenyans and reject it in the end,” he said.
Raila spoke just a day after Orengo and a number of leaders weighed in on the matter, even as Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, who is a member of the security committee, clarified that what is before the committee are just legislative proposals to deal with hatemongers and those who incite the public.
In response to Raila’s statement a few hours later, Ruto faulted the ODM leader for what he termed “his misunderstanding of the hustler narrative”.
“While agreeing fully with your defence of freedom of speech and thought as guaranteed by Constitution, we respectfully disagree with your very wrong understanding of hustlers but will equally defend your thoughts. We will work tirelessly to get hustlers narrative positively understood,” Ruto tweeted.
Members of the National Assembly are in the process of considering a legislative proposal seeking to give the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) teeth to secure convictions for hatemongers.
The Committee on National Security and Administration chaired by Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange is in receipt of radical proposals by NCIC on punitive measures that will deter leaders and Kenyans from engaging in divisive talk.
This comes at a time the commission has been put in a spot for lack of convictions in the cases involving MPs accused of engaging in hate speech.
Among the proposals is a move to bar public officers cited for hate speech or incitement from holding public office or seeking elective office.
The commission is seeking to have special prosecutorial powers to investigate and prosecute its cases in court without forwarding the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji as is the case currently.
It is also seeking to amend the Evidence Act to allow for electronic evidence to be admissible in court and investigators be granted access to communication gadgets during their probe.
The commission further wants those who snub summonses be held to account and penalised.
But MPs are already up in arms, with Orengo warning that Kenyans went through a lot to secure freedom of speech and opposed any legislation that seeks to take away any gains.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said their slogan targets those who need to be empowered.
Kitui Central MP Makalu Mulu and his Alego/Usonga colleague Sam Atandi have supported the amendments.
But Ruto allies Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu) and Cecily Mbarire argue that the hustler slogan has been taken out of context.
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