Emurua Dikirr Member of Parliament Johana Ng’eno has been released on a Sh1 million cash bail after spending two nights in custody at the Nakuru Central Police Station.
Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Osui ruled that the lawmaker who pleaded not guilty to charges of hate speech and offensive conduct alternatively deposits before court a bond of Sh2 million with a similar surety.
The court however warned the legislator that bail terms will be reviewed if he convenes meetings, issues inflammatory statements or attempts to intimidate witnesses before the matter is heard and determined.
Ms Osui had deferred the ruling on bond application after the defense team led by the MP’s lawyer Kimutai Bosek and prosecution conducted by state counsel Daniel Karuri presented their submissions over the matter.
Mr. Karuri had opposed the lawmaker’s release on bond on grounds that the current situation at Emurua Dikirr is volatile.
According to Karuri, the offence by the MP is serious adding that being a senior politician in the area, he is bound to interfere with witnesses saying crucial witnesses should be allowed to testify before a bond can be discussed.
Mr. Bosek had urged the court to release his client on reasonable bond terms saying he has a constitutional right to bail. While noting the status of his client as an MP, Bosek said Ng’eno was not a flight risk pleading to have him released.
Bosek further argued that the prosecution had not provided any compelling reason to have his client detained for more time.
“His place of abode is well known and being a MP, he cannot disappear,” said Bosek.
“I want to urge the court to take judicial review on several instances of hate speech and ethnic contempt by people in the republic and the effects of the utterances that led to violence in the Mau,” Bosek said.
In her ruling via Zoom, Ms Osui noted that the state had not tendered any evidence to prove that Mr. Ng’eno would interfere with investigations.
The MP is accused of stirring up ethnic hatred when he attended a thanksgiving ceremony in the area.
Particulars in the charge sheet stated that on September 6, at Junction, Olgos-Sofia village in Transmara West within Narok County Ngeno used abusive words causing ethnic tension among communities living in the region.
He is said to have uttered; ‘Na hio msitu ya Mau, nitazidi kusema ninety-five percent iko kwa shamba yetu, hio yenye iko Narok ni only five per cent na all the blocks iko Mau is in our land’. I will say time and again that Mau forest is in our land,”
According to police, Ng’eno incited the locals by claiming that the Mau eviction by the government was meant to flash out a certain community from the Mau Complex by alleging that they had encroached.
He faced a second count of offensive conduct, where it is alleged that on the same day, the MP at the home of the late Joseph Waitakei at a public gathering used abusive language.
Earlier this week, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji approved hate speech charges against the lawmaker under the Cohesion and Integration Act.
In a five minutes clip circulated online, the MP was also captured lashing out at President Uhuru Kenyatta accusing him of sidelining Deputy President William Ruto in the management of the country’s affairs.
Haji said the MP uttered words which are likely to stir ethnic animosity among communities residing within Trans Mara area, adding that his office is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to mount a successful prosecution.
The DPP noted that the MP’s actions may open old wounds and incite the different communities in the area against each other owing to the fact that Mau forest has been an area of contention.
“Based on the evidence, applicable laws and the National Prosecution Policy, I have directed that, criminal charges be preferred against the MP for hate speech contrary to section 13 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008 and conduct conducive to breaches of peace contrary to section 94 of the Penal Code,” stated the DPP.
Section 13 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act provides that a person who uses “threatening, abusive or insulting words, commits an offense if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up.”
It also provides that, “any person who commits an offense under this section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.”
The DPP also cautioned politicians sowing seeds of discord against Kenyans, saying this will not be tolerated regardless of their social standing.
The case is set to be mentioned on 12th October 2020.
By Anne Mwale and David Mururia