Kenyan lawmakers held for hate speech

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Eight Kenyan politicians are behind bars on suspicion of hate speech in the latest sign of rising political tensions a year ahead of elections.

Three lawmakers from the ruling Jubilee party, and four plus a senator from the opposition CORD alliance, were ordered to be detained for four days by Kenya's High Court to allow investigations into alleged hate speech and incitement.

The detained Jubilee MPs, Moses Kuria, Kimani Ngunjiri and Ferdinand Waititu, are loyalists of President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of his Kikuyu tribe.

The CORD politicians are MPs Timothy Bosire, Aisha Jumwa, Junet Mohammed and Florence Mutua, and senator Johnson Muthama.

They all spent Tuesday night in detention.

The arrests follow weeks of occasionally deadly opposition protests against the election commission that CORD leader Raila Odinga believes cheated him of victory in 2013.

Ordering their detention late Tuesday, magistrate Daniel Ogembo said the eight's influence and power meant they might interfere with investigations, and remanded them in custody until June 17.

Jubilee MPs Kuria and Waititu are accused of making public statements threatening the life of Odinga, a Luo, while Ngunjiri is said to have called for Luos in the central town of Nakuru to return to western Kenya, their traditional homeland.

On the CORD side Mohammed, Mutua and Muthama are accused of inciting the storming of police headquarters, while Bosire and Jumwa are alleged to have predicted chaos and violence as a result of Kenyatta's failure to unite the country in the wake of widespread and deadly political violence following the 2007 elections.

More than 1,100 people died and half a million were forced from their homes after that vote as politically-motivated tribal violence mainly pitting Kikuyus against Luos and Kalenjins.

Kenyatta and his now-deputy William Ruto were charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly directing the violence, but the International Criminal Court subsequently dropped both cases.

The alliance between Kenyatta and Ruto, a Kalenjin, helped prevent violence around the 2013 polls but foreign diplomats and observers fear political and tribal tensions are once again rising ahead of elections due in August 2017.