Local artist John Ng’ang’a popularly known as John De Mathew with his lawyer Abiyu Kamau outside high courts building at the Milimani law courts in Nairobi Friday 20/06/2014.
BY SAM ALFAN
A local artist accused of propagating hate speech in one of his songs ahead of last year’s general election was acquitted on Friday by a Nairobi Magistrate court.
John Ng’ang’a popularly known as John De Mathew was accused of allegedly singing the song Mwaka wa Hiti (The Year of the Hyena) in Kikuyu language that bordered on ‘hate speech’ against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who was one of the contenders for the top seat in 2013-elections.
Acquitting the accused Senior Principal Magistrate Ellena Nderitu said she did not find any inciting statements in the song produced in 2010. Ms Nderitu said the court established that the prosecution did not present enough evidence to link the artist with hate speech in his song.
“After perusing through the file and listening to submissions by the prosecution and the defence this court found no evidence to link the accuser’s song to the hate speech charges leveled against him as he never mentioned any tribe in his song,” ruled Nderitu.
The Mugithi singer was charged in July 2012 at the height of political campaigns ahead of the General Election earlier anticipated to take place between August and December 2012.
This is after the then Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission Mzalendo Kibunjia ordered an investigation in to the songs ‘Mwaka wa Hiti’ composed by De Mathew, ‘Hague bound’ by Muigai wa Njoroge, and ‘Uhuru ni Witu’ by Kamande wa Kioi.
He was charged alongside prominent Kikuyu musicians colleagues John Muigai wa Njoroge and Kamande wa Kioi for incorporating hate speech in their songs.
The commission hired the services of a certified translator to interpret the three vernacular songs and determine whether, as claimed, the songs contained tribal, divisive and inflammatory messages. The commission even threatened to ban the music if the probe established that the songs violate the National Cohesion and Integration Act.
However, the cases never took off for some time and no witnesses were called to testify and this prompted Kioi and Njoroge to write to the NCIC on January 28 and February 22 last year asking for an out of court reconciliation which was granted after they said a peace deal with the NCIC. De’ Mathew however was not party to the agreement with the NCIC and vowed to press on with the case until his name was cleared by court.
Speaking to the media after his release De’ Mathew who started singing in 1987 pledged to use his talent as a secular musician to promote unity and cohesion among communities by rallying them against negative ethnicity.
“At last justice has been done and I am very happy that the court has vindicated me of the charges. I undertake to preach peace and unity in my music,” De’ Mathew said.
He said as a local artist he was encouraging communities in development activities and encouraging the youth to shun illicit brews. If found guilty, the musician risked to serve a three-year jail term or a fine of about Sh 1 million.