Kenya: Politicians on notice after dozens of political dialects banned

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 12 April 2022 13:06, updated on Monday, 20 June 2022 11:39

Kenyan presidential candidate William Ruto kicks off his campaign, in Nairobi
Election year is unlikely to help Kenya's public finances. Here, UDA's presidential candidate William Ruto addresses a campaign rally in Nairobi, January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Politicians in Kenya are in the spotlight after the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) banned a list of more than 20 English, Kiswahili and vernacular words that constitute hate speech and have the potential to trigger political violence ahead of the 9 August poll.

NCIC is a Kenyan statutory body established in 2008 to promote national unity, reconciliation and promote equality.

Some of the popular jargon in Kiswahili that have been banned include hatupangwingwi (we will make our own choices) and watajua hawajui (they will reckon with us), which are regularly used by Deputy President William Ruto and his allies during political rallies.

Others include madoadoa (blemishes) and kama mbaya mbaya (it’s do or die) that have been used by politicians who support Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga.

NCIC chairman Reverend Samuel Kobia now says the words will no longer be allowed in public rallies, on social media posts or on political talk shows. “This will go a long way in containing hate speech and ensuring our nation is secure during this electioneering period,” he said.

Reactions of politicians

However, the ban has raised an uproar in the political sphere, with some from the Ruto camp claiming that they are being targeted by the commission.

In a show of defiance, the deputy president released a remix of the music video Hatupangwingwi just hours after the ban, which sent his supporters into a frenzy.

One of Ruto’s right-hand men, Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator), also took to his Twitter account mocking the NCIC for not banning other words, such as kazi ni kazi (work is work) and ‘wheelbarrow’.

Kimani Ichu’ngwa, another politician allied to Ruto said: “Kenya ni yetu, Watajua hawajui. Maisha ni yangu. Sipangwingwi (Kenya is ours. They will reckon with us. I make my own choices).”

‘They don’t want peace’

Jayson Sagini, who supports Raila, says he is worried about the continued use of the banned words.

Though his preferred candidate has been accused of using one of the banned words – madoadoa – when telling his supporters to reject politicians not allied to ODM, Sagini says their competitors are crossing the line. “The continuous use of banned words by the Ruto camp means they don’t want peace,” he tells The Africa Report.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, a close ally of Raila, has been accused of threatening Ruto and his supporters using the banned words kama ni mbaya, kama ni noma noma (It’s do or die). “I warn them (Ruto and supporters) if they bring trouble, let it come,” he told a political rally.

Politicians should be careful with their words, they can easily incite violence.

Paulo Nzioki, an undecided voter, however says the NCIC is engaging in baseless talk and compares the institution to a toothless dog as it does not have a police force and neither is it a prosecuting organ. The commission depends on the country’s security organs to implement their orders. “I’m sure we shall hear more of the banned jargon, [but] nothing will happen to these politicians,” he tells The Africa Report.

Kevin Ochol, a Nakuru based political analyst, says he is worried that if politicians continue to use the banned words, there is a high possibility that they will incite violence similar to what was witnessed in 2017. “Politicians should be careful with their words, they can easily incite violence,” he says.

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