Opinion / Commentaries
Thursday, 21 Dec 2017 11:42 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
Proponents of secession should be allowed to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression in accordance with Article 33 of the Constitution as long as they do not engage in propaganda for war; incitement to violence; hate speech or advocacy of hatred.
The Constitution is clear that every citizen has “the right to freedom of expression that does not constitute ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm” Article 38 (1) of the Constitution is also clear on the “right of every citizen to make political choices including the right to campaign for a political party or cause”.
Kenyans advocating for secession should therefore be viewed as engaged in their constitutional right to campaign for a political cause as the constitution allows as long as they do not do it in a manner that jeopardizes the rights and reputation of others.
As an organization that advocates for the full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, the Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) holds the view that it is neither illegal, criminal, subversive nor treasonable as the Attorney General has proffered in the past for any citizen of the Republic of Kenya to engage in public debate and campaign for secession.
It cannot be illegal or criminal, let alone being subversive or treasonable to engage in a public debate or discourse on secession as the Attorney General suggested when Article 255 of the Constitution itself anticipates amendment of the Constitution by a referendum if the amendment touches on the territory of Kenya, among other issues.
Recent warnings that proponents of secession will be dealt with “firmly” are therefore uncalled for and unconstitutional. Instead, the CSRG would like to encourage those opposed to the idea of secession to extoll and advance arguments in favour of unity rather than seek to gag those in support. This is the only way we can advance the ethos of an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.
We would also wish to remind the President that one of his core functions as provided for in Article 132 is to: (c) Once every year, (i) Report, in an address to the nation, on all the measures taken and the progress achieved in the realization of the National Values and Principles of Governance, provided for in Article 10 of the Constitution; (ii) Publish in the Gazette the details of the measures and progress achieved National unity is one of the National Values and Principles of Governance being referred to and it would therefore make more sense if the president explained how his government has sought to promote national cohesion from 2013 when he took over the reins of power rather than threaten unspecified action against proponents of secession.
The CSRG wishes to remind the President that in his inaugural address in 2013, he said: “Today, I am humbled and honoured to accept the mantle of leadership that the people of Kenya have bestowed on me. I will lead all Kenyans – those who voted for me – and those who voted for our competitors – towards a national prosperity that is firmly rooted in a rich and abiding peace in which unity can ultimately be realized.
Peace is not simply about the absence of violence, it is defined by the presence of fundamental liberties and the prevalence of economic opportunities. We will not settle for a perfunctory peace that is disrupted every five years by an election cycle. Rather, we are calling and working towards a permanent peace, through which democracy is glorified rather than undermined.
A peace that fosters unity. Indeed, national unity will only be possible if we deal decisively with some of the issues that continue to hinder our progress”. More than 5 years after the pledge, Kenyans are more divided than they were in 2013 when the President pledged to go beyond perfunctory peace! This is an indictment on the president’s leadership and calls for serious introspection rather than threats to “deal firmly” with proponents of secession.
Signed by: Suba Churchill +254 722 594 938 Presiding Convener Civil Society Reference Group