I will defend your freedom to speak freely, Uhuru tells Kenyans


Uhuru Kenyatta
President Kenyatta addressing mourners at Mama Lucy Kibaki funeral service. [Photo/PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured Kenyans of his willingness to uphold the freedom of speech in the country.

Speaking during the funeral service of the late former First Lady Mama Lucy Kibaki, President Kenyatta stated that the Kenyans are free to speak their mind without fear of intimidation and harassment, saying free speech is a key pinnacle upon which Kenya’s democracy is anchored.

Uhuru’s message was centered on his high regards for Mama Lucy’s attribute to speak freely regardless of probable implications.

“Mama Lucy showed us that every Kenyan has a right to speak his or her mind without fear of intimidation from anyone,” he said.

“There are times when Mama Lucy would speak her mind even if it was evidently contradictory to President Mwai Kibaki’s stand. That is what we, as a country, should thrive to achieve.”

The president further heaped praise on the former first lady for her zeal to fight for the right of the girl-child and spearhead efforts to fight HIV/AIDs.

Uhuru promised to stand with former President Mwai Kibaki and his family as they mourn the loss of Mama Lucy, saying his contributions to the country’s growth during his time as Head of State were laudable.

“We will continue with our friendship as a family and we will continue to support one another to ensure that at no time will you feel you are alone.”

In his speech at the same service, former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete said that he had been saddened by the death of Mama Lucy Kibaki saying his presence at the funeral service showed his family’s close ties with Kenya’s former first family.

Kikwete also passed a message of condolence from President John Pombe Magufuli who could not attend the service due to other engagements.

The service was attended by Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Mukhisa Kitui, ODM deputy party leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, several other governors, senators and members.

After the service the cortege headed to Mama Lucy’s Othaya home for a private burial ceremony.

Though obliquely, President Kenyatta’s statements seemed to be a response to growing disgruntlement among some Kenyans over apparent move by the government to clump down on those who speak against it.

The issue of freedom of expressed came into discuss on Friday after the killing of businessman Jacob Juma.

Though preliminary investigations into the matter are yet to be concluded, several leaders including CORD principal Raila Odinga have termed his death an execution, claiming that Juma was killed due to his open criticism of the government on cases of corruption among them the alleged loss of Eurobond money.

Several journalists have also gotten into trouble for reporting on stories that have been termed as issues of national interest.

In the three years that the Jubilee Government has been in power, there have been 24 cases of intimidation and harassment of journalists, 14 for speaking and writing corruption-related articles.

One of the cases was last year’s wanton assault of Citizen TV cameraman Reuben Ogachi and NTV’s Nehemiah Okwemba in Malindi for supposedly covering a negative story on Galana Kulalu project.

Journalists John Ngirachu (Daily Nation) and Alphonce Shiundu (The Standard) were also summoned at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to record statements after their stories on allegation of misappropriation of funds at the Interior Ministry infuriated CS Joseph Nkaissery.

President Kenyatta has in the past urged Kenyan media to practice responsible reporting and avoid giving attention to political pronouncement that may spark hate among Kenyans and threaten the peace of the country.

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