By Duncan Miriri and Humphrey Malalo
NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan junior minister was charged in court on Thursday with hate speech and inciting violence after calling on members on one tribe to leave a neighborhood in the capital, Nairobi.
Ferdinand Waititu is the second minister to be charged with inciting violence in two weeks, raising fears some politicians are still bent on stoking unrest for political gain as Kenya looks ahead to a March presidential election.
The prosecution told the court that Waititu had said words "calculated to bring violence to members of the Maasai community living and working in Kayole," a densely-populated neighborhood in his Nairobi constituency of Embakasi.
Waititu called for Maasai to be "chased away" from the area on Monday after Maasai guards battered a street boy to death.
Violence later broke out in which two people were killed. Police are investigating whether the fighting was triggered by Waititu's remarks.
Next year's vote will be the first since a war crimes court launched cases against four Kenyans, including two presidential contenders in the 2013 election, accused of masterminding tribal violence that killed more than 1,200 people following a disputed 2007 poll.
Elections have traditionally been flashpoints of unrest in a country where political allegiances tend to be based on tribal loyalties rather than political ideology.
Many Kenyans are wary of repeat clashes next year and a reconciliation body set up after the last bout of post-election violence has urged politicians to refrain from making inflammatory remarks.
Mzalendo Kibunjia, who chairs the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in Kenya, said he hoped the judicial case against Waititu would deter other politicians from stoking unrest.
"Everybody who wants to campaign on those tired, old terrible politics, there will be no room for you. You had better learn new tricks of political mobilization," he told Reuters.
Waititu, a political ally of deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta who is one of the four facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court, was remanded in custody until the court decided whether to grant bail.
Waititu apologized for his remarks which he called a "slip of the tongue" but failed to stop the prosecutor pressing charges, a move broadly supported by a public tired with politicians showing little regard for the law.
Earlier this month, President Mwai Kibaki sacked Assistant Livestock Minister Dhadho Godana who was accused of inciting violence in a dispute over land and water in Kenya's coastal region in which over 100 people have been killed.
Godana pleaded not guilty was released on bail.
"Everybody has been for the last four years saying 'never again' and now five months to the elections you hear such terrible comments. You have to worry," Kibunjia said.
Waititu, who is running for governor of Nairobi, could lose his position as assistant minister under the terms of a new constitution enacted in 2010.
The constitution requires ministers to resign when they are charged with serious crimes, designed to end decades of impunity when politicians charged with serious crimes would carry on in office.
(Editing by Richard Lough and Angus MacSwan)