Kenya: Governmnet must avoid inciting ethnic hatred or violence at national constitutional referndum

Press Release
August 3, 2010

Kenya: Governmnet must avoid inciting ethnic hatred or violence at national constitutional referndum

Amnesty International Urges that Kenyan Authorities Vigilantly Protect Human Rights, Ahead of Wednesday's National Constitutional Referendum

Human Rights Organization Says Concerns Remain that Hate Speech is Creating Divisions that Could Lead to Violence

August 3, 2010

With tensions high ahead of Wednesday's national constitutional referendum, Amnesty International today called on Kenyan political leaders to avoid inciting ethnic hatred or violence and urged security forces to protect citizens from human rights violations.

"Another bloodbath is not inevitable so long as Kenyan politicians act responsibly, do not stoke ethnic tensions, and avoid making statements that may be construed as advocating ethnic hatred or incitement to violence," said Justus Nyang'aya, director, Amnesty International Kenya.

Kenya's most recent elections in December 2007 sparked violence and police killings in which more than 1,000 people died. The United Nations estimated that more than 500,000 people were displaced from their homes. The drafting of a new constitution is part of the power sharing deal that ended the violence during which security and police forces used excessive force and fired live ammunition into crowds to quell mass protests and violence.

Despite repeated calls by human rights organizations ahead of the referendum that politicians moderate their language, concerns remain that hate speech has already created divisions in parts of the country that could lead to violence.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has captured various politicians on video using hate speech in their campaign rallies. An MP from the Rift Valley was reportedly arrested by police and detained for one night, on allegations of circulating leaflets warning some people to leave his constituency.

Amnesty International remains concerned about the failure of the government to address impunity for human rights violations and crimes committed during the post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 by individuals, armed groups and security personnel and police.

"Unless the perpetrators of human rights violations and crimes are held to account, then such violations and crimes will continue to be perpetrated. By failing to punish the perpetrators, the government is giving a green light for further violence," said Nyang'aya.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.