Int'l prosecutor blames Kenyan radio host for violence

The suspense just lifted in Kenya, as the International Criminal Court's prosecutor revealed the names of the six Kenyans he hopes to hold responsible for the country's devastating post election violence in early 2008. Luis Moreno Ocampo named five well-known politicians - and a radio broadcaster, Joshua Sang. This is a sign that the ICC agrees with many Kenyans that speech helped to catalyze the brutal violence of 2008, in which 1,133 people were killed. It is also a warning for other Kenyans who might use speech to inflame audiences against Kenyans of other ethnic groups, as they did in the months leading up to the last elections - and the violence. Kenya faces its next presidential elections in 2012 - soon enough for concern, especially since inflammatory speech continues in Kenya, including on the radio.

Joshua Sang, known to his avid listeners as arap Sang, is the head of the notorious Kalenjin-language radio station Kass FM, and the presenter of its popular morning show, Lene emet, or "What is the World Saying?" He is famous among members of Kenya's Kalenjin ethnic group, and is notorious for heated broadcasts. Last summer, during the campaign for and against Kenya's new constitution, arap Sang and well-rehearsed "frequent callers" to his program tried to persuade Kalenjins  that they would lose their land if the constitution passed. Kalenjins voted overwhelmingly against it, although most Kenyans voted "yes," and the constitution was adopted. In 2008, it was among some of arap Sang's Kalenjin listeners that violence first erupted, after they concluded  that President Mwai Kibaki had stolen the election, and Kass FM fanned their anger.

Such violence must be prevented in the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire), which is at great risk of exploding as Kenya did in 2008. Just as in Kenya, the elections were closely contested, and both candidates flung accusations at one another and their supporters, inflaming their audiences. In the north of the country, flyers circulated, warning of civil war (and thus making it more likely). After the vote, the electoral council found that Alassane Ouattara had won, and President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the result. In the two weeks since, the country has been paralyzed by the crippling standoff, and dozens of people have died in clashes.

Frantically trying to stay in the presidency and keep his people in the dark, Gbagbo had all foreign news broadcasts banned in Cote d'Ivoire, and has blamed everyone else - French journalists, the French government, the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire - for what he himself is doing: pushing the country to the brink of mass violence. I hope that, despite the news ban he has imposed on his country, Gbagbo hears loudly and clearly that the International Criminal Court is moving to prosecute Kenyans for post-election violence.

--Susan Benesch.