The government will not shut down the internet before and after the August 9, 2022 General election despite a notable rise in abuse of the social media, Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i has said.
He, however noted that the rise in social media abuse was a threat to the general election and warned that the government had strengthened media monitoring and investigations of hate speech with a view to stemming them.
“We are aware of the rising vitriol of hate speech and incitement compounded by propaganda and fake news on social media and political campaigns. However, we have strengthened media monitoring and investigation of hate speech with a view to stemming them,” he said.
Matiang’i said this Wednesday in a speech read on his behalf by Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata during a retreat for leaders of the International Christian Centre Church at a Watamu hotel in Kilifi County.
He named Face Book, Twitter, WhatsApp and the blogosphere as some of the online platform being used to propagate misinformation and disinformation by politicians and social misfits but noted that as a democratic state, Kenya would not shut down the internet.
“Although we have observed an exponential rise in incitement on social media, let me express it here today, that as a democratic state which guarantees freedom of speech and access to information under Chapter Four of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the government of Kenya will not shut down the internet before and after the General Election,” he said.
He noted that the rise in social media abuse was a threat to the general election and called on all stakeholders including the church and politicians to preach peace and hold peaceful campaigns.
He said other evils the government was keen on confronting in the run up to the General Election included bribery, the undue interference of the electoral process through political hooliganism, and the general violence and intimidation of voters to dissuade them from freely exercising their democratic rights.
To win the fight against corruption, there was need for concerted efforts by politicians, religious leaders, government agencies and all Kenyans to play their roles, the CS said adding that the government had made a commitment to fight corruption and would continue to do so with greater zeal.
On the government’s preparedness to provide adequate security during the General Election, Matiang’i said the government had recruited adequate security personnel to secure the polls as well as deal with rising crime and warned that criminals should not to think that since the government was concentrating on securing the polls, they (criminals) would have a field day.
“We are aware that there are certain opportunists and criminals who may capitalize on the electioneering period to commit various crimes thinking that security organs are preoccupied with securing the electoral process. I wish to state categorically that the government has put adequate measures to contain these threats too,” he said.
He said security organs, especially the National Police Service, were better prepared and resourced currently than they were in 2013 and 2017 General Elections.
He noted that that since 2017, the government had recruited 20,300 police officers and 2,500 police reservists, bringing the per capita ratio of police to citizens well beyond the UN standards of one police officer to 400 citizens.
“We have adequate police to serve and secure the forthcoming General Election. The government, through the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government has regularly held meetings with key stakeholders to prepare for peaceful, free and fair General Election,” he said.
He noted that the government had formulated the National Multi-Agency Consultative Forum and Election preparedness chaired by the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, which he noted had been a great success in creating a common purpose across the board.
The General Superintendent of the Kenya Assemblies of God, Archbishop Philip Kitoto, called on the church in Kenya to discharge its duty of being an eye of peace and discourage practices that would compromise peace in the country.
My call to all my pastors and bishops is that every church is the eye of peace and an eye of ensuring that what is right happens,” Kitoto said. I would encourage every church to be a part of the process of peace and proper governance,” he said.