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Matiang’i: Kenya will not shut down internet during 2022 elections

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has dismissed reports the government could shut down social media over hate speech ahead of the 2022 general elections.

Speaking at the Bomas of Kenya during the launch of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission’s (NCIC) 2020-2025 strategic plan, Matiang’i said the security sector will do its part to protect Kenya ahead of the elections.

But he warned those who will attempt to propagate hate speech on social media.

“Kenya’s social media will not be shut down over hate speech. However, we will be very ruthless when it comes to those who interfere with others’ freedoms. We will not hesitate or be intimidated by pressures or complaints from anybody. We will protect Kenya,” he said.

While assuring Kenyans that it won’t happen, the CS said the government will not delay in taking action against any individuals who infringed on other people’s freedoms.

“We will not do things like switching off internet, it will not happen here.. we will not harass people but because we are confident, we will act according to the law and call people to account. To those who break the law, we will arrange a good meeting between you and the law. Any threats to the vision of Kenya should be met with the full force of law.. ” he added.

Matiang’i said the security agencies will do their part ahead of the elections adding that Kenya is a democratic country, and “our democracy is by choice, not by force”.

“This country is a democracy. We are a democracy by choice and it was not imposed on us,” the CS said.

In February, NCIC mapped out five major towns as possible hotspots for violence during the 2022 election campaigns period.

They are Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Mombasa and Nakuru.

The commission said the areas are being monitored closely as the country has reached new low levels of incitement with heightened political activities and rhetoric that point to a possible repeat of the 2007/8 elections violence.

In Nairobi, the team cited the city’s seven slums as recruitment grounds for political activities. They, however, did not release specific areas in other counties by the time of going to press.

In January, the cohesion commission unveiled a plan to curb hate speech and incitement ahead of the BBI referendum and 2022 election campaigns.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission released statistics indicating it has handled 434 hate cases since 2017.

Some 185 of the total cases were reported in 2017 alone – the election year – with 85 reported in 2018, 75 in 2019 and 86 last year.

With the statistics showing most hate utterances are during campaigns, the Commission noted that it has raised its antennae and has already put in place a strategy to tame hate-mongering.