NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has suspended an assistant minister from his post while he fights charges of hate speech in court, the president’s office said on Thursday.
Wilfred Machage, assistant minister of roads, was charged on Wednesday with using hate speech in the run-up to an August 4 referendum on a new constitution by saying people would be evicted from their land if the constitution is adopted.
Two other members of parliament and the wife of a former chief justice were also charged.
The four denied various counts of uttering words that violate a 2008 law aimed at fostering national cohesion and integration after a bloody post-election crisis led to the killing of 1,300 people earlier that year.
Kibaki’s office gave no further details in the statement.
The U.S. ambassador to Kenya on Thursday gave his support to the body that carried out the investigations that led to the arrests of the four — the National Cohesion and Integration Commission that was set up after the post election violence.
“All those involved in such activities, regardless of political and religious affiliation must be held accountable,” Michael Ranneberger, Washington’s ambassador to Nairobi, said.
Kenya is due to hold an August 4 vote on the proposed charter, a key part of a deal signed by politicians to restore stability after the 2008 crisis highlighted deep ethnic divisions in the former British colony of about 36 million people.
The charges of stoking fears amongst Kenya’s various communities come days after the run-up to the vote turned violent when six people were killed and over 100 injured when three grenades exploded at a prayer meeting and “No” rally.