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Kenya gets tough on hate speech ahead of polls

Kenya's assistant minister for water, Fedinard Waititu, faces charges of incitement to violence after a speech this week. Kenya is trying to avoid a repeat of the 2007 election violence.

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A Kenyan assistant minister yesterday became the most recent politician to face charges of incitement to violence, as the East African country gets tough on incitement and hate speech ahead of general elections this coming March.

The last major elections in Kenya turned bloody: Hate speeches were widely viewed as contributing to the post election violence. The troubles began in December 2007 after President Mwai Kibaki, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, was declared the winner and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe, rejected the results as rigged. By the time the violence ended two months later, an estimated 1,300 people had died and more than 600,000 were displaced.

To avoid a repeat of election violence, Kenyan officials are clamping down on speeches that inflame ethnic animosities. Attorney General Githu Muigai told Parliament that the assistant minister's case will serve as an example of the government's resolve.

“The government wants to send a strong message that nobody, no matter how high or low, will escape the full force of the law on this matter of hate speech," said Mr. Muigai, in a televised speech Wednesday. "This is case is good example, it will send clear warning to the people inciting communities against each other."

Fedinard Waititu, the assistant minister for water, appeared in court yesterday under tight security after dodging police for days until a high court judge ordered him to surrender. Mr. Waititu has apologized for his words, but has denied the charges. The case will come for hearing in November.

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