Kenya 'hate speech' minister Machage suspended

Image caption,
Wilfred Machage, along with two other MPs charged, denies using hate speech

Kenya's Assistant Roads Minister Wilfred Machage has been suspended by President Mwai Kibaki a day after being charged with inciting hatred.

Along with two other MPs, he was charged with hate speech during the campaign for a new constitution.

They allegedly said some ethnic groups would have to leave their land if the constitution was approved.

Six people died on Sunday in a stampede after grenades exploded at a campaign rally for the "No" campaign.

Some fear that the campaign ahead of a 4 August referendum could lead to a repeat of the violence which followed elections in December 2007.

Disputes over allegations of electoral fraud ignited ethnic tensions, leading to the deaths of some 1,300 people and forced 300,00 from their homes.

Higher Education Minister William Ruto, among another three MPs also accused of hate speech earlier this week but not charged, has appeared before the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).

Mr Ruto is alleged to have asked Muslims to reject the proposed constitution if they do not want a war with Christians.

The NCIC was set up to ease ethnic tensions after the post-election violence in 2007 and 2008.

The commission has written to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, asking for the suspension of all campaigning.

Power share

NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia said he wanted the politicians to be prosecuted quickly after the experience of 2008.

Much of the post-election violence in 2008 was over land disputes between rival ethnic groups and the proposed constitution would set up a land commission to manage public and community land, which is opposed by some.

The violence ended when election rivals Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga agreed to share power - and write a new constitution.

The coalition remains shaky but supporters of both men generally support the draft constitution.

The document provides for greater checks on presidential powers and more regional devolution.

It also recognises the UN human rights charter and creates a second parliamentary chamber - the senate.

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