Heads of Mission call for an end to fake news, lies and hate speech in run up to election re-run

Fake news
An example of the fake news purporting to be from the UK High Commission in Kenya. Photo: Facebook/UKinKenya

The UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Nic Hailey, has joined fourteen other foreign Heads of Mission in Kenya to urge Kenyans to refrain from rhetoric and actions that could incite hatred and violence, as the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s full ruling on the Presidential election today.

In the joint statement, the envoys urge Kenya to focus on preparing for the new poll in October and noted the upsurge in troubling “fake news,” hate speech, and ethnic profiling ongoing in the country.

They also bemoaned the attacks on the judiciary and the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and called on all sides to ensure that the baseless attacks and lies are stopped.

The statement in full reads:

As Kenyans await the Supreme Court’s release of its full ruling on the presidential election, we urge leaders and citizens to refrain from rhetoric and actions that incite hatred and violence.   Now is the time to focus on preparing for the new poll, which, in line with the Court’s order and the Constitution, must be run by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and be held by the end of October.

In recent months Kenya has witnessed an upsurge in troubling “fake news,” hate speech, and ethnic profiling.  In addition, there have been unfounded attacks on individuals and institutions, for instance on the judiciary and the IEBC.  While we support freedom of speech, baseless attacks and lies must stop, and leaders on all sides should work to ensure they do.  They risk undermining Kenya’s Constitution, the rule of law, and the nation’s peace and security.

In particular, we condemn the malicious “Judicial Capture” documents that have been publicly circulating.  They contain false statements that could endanger lives.  We urge the Kenyan authorities to hold to account those responsible for hate speech and incitement and to ensure the safety of those wrongly attacked, including members of our own Mission staffs.  We and our teams will continue to act with complete impartiality, in line with our shared commitment to Kenya’s Constitution and its institutions.

We will continue to work with the IEBC and with all Kenyans who seek to ensure the new presidential election is free, fair, and credible.  A successful poll will require goodwill and flexibility from leaders and citizens alike.  Politics must not be a matter of life or death.  We urge everyone to keep the peace and to respect the Constitution, its values, and the institutions it established.  As partners, we stand with Kenyans who seek to move the country forward and to strengthen the country’s democracy.

Along with the UK’s High Commissioner, the joint statement has been signed by

Robert F. Godec (Ambassador of the United States), Stefano A. Dejak (Ambassador of the European Union), Mette Knudsen (Ambassador of Denmark), Frans Makken (Ambassador of the Netherlands), Mauro Massoni (Ambassador of Italy), Sara Hradecky (High Commissioner for Canada), Victor Conrad Rønneberg (Ambassador of Norway), Jutta Frasch (Ambassador of Germany), Tarja Fernández (Ambassador of Finland), Antoine Sivan (Ambassador of France), Ralf Heckner (Ambassador of Switzerland), Quinton Devlin (Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Australia), Sergiusz Wolski (Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Poland) and Fredrik Folkunger (Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Sweden).