Authorities in Kenya have ordered the arrest and prosecution of Water Assistant Minister Ferdinand Waititu on charges of making a 'hate speech' and inciting violence against ethnic Maasai in his constituency, Kenyan media reported Tuesday.
The order was reportedly issued jointly by Kenya's Internal Security Minister Katoo ole Metito and Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko after a video of a speech made by Waititu was posted on YouTube.
In the speech recorded by Kenya's Nation Television, Waititu said: "We don't want to see any Maasai here in Kayole." He also called on "all people who employed Maasai, to sack them with immediate effect."
The minister was apparently reacting angrily to the alleged killing of a street child by a Maasai security guard for stealing a chicken in Kayole suburb. Waititu's speech had triggered street protests in Nairobi demanding his prosecution and resignation.
Hours before the warrant was issued for his arrest on Tuesday, Waititu apologized for his remarks at a press conference held in Nairobi, saying: "Let me first apologize for using the word Maasai without clarifying what I meant. But I also want to express my concern over people who work as watchmen at night and kill people."
Insisting that his remarks were taken out of context for political interests, Waititu added: "Trying to imply that I caused the chaos and there were people who got hurt and killed as a result is all politics. Let me tell you that it is the people of Nairobi who will decide who the governor of Nairobi is whether you fight me through the media or not."
Nevertheless, his apology did not appear to have any effect on Interior Minister Metito, who reportedly said: "No crime is ever committed by ethnic groups but by individuals who should be investigated and made to face the full wrath of the law. Waititu and any other person who was involved must be arrested and taken to court."
Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko also acknowledged that the minister's remarks were provocative, and said: "Waititu should be held responsible for his utterances. He not only incited people to violence but also incited feelings of hatred and hostility against the Maasai community."
The development comes ahead of polls slated for March. Waititu's speech has triggered fears about the possible repeat of deadly ethnic violence which followed the 2007 election. In order to avoid the repeat of such violence, the new constitution adopted two years ago requires any minister charged with an offense to step down, and forbids him or her from seeking re-election unless acquitted of the charges.
by RTT Staff Writer
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