Kenyan poll shows how social media misleads

William Ruto

RAILA Odinga lost the elections in Kenya for the fifth time. As is the norm in the former British colony, the people voted and the courts decided.

In 2017, after numerous allegations against the electoral process, the people of Kenya, who had voted for Uhuru Kenyatta had their vote rescinded by the courts.

It is not debatable that Kenyan politics is defined more by ethnicity and this has seen coalition arrangements taking precedence over ideological orientation.

The triumvirate of Uhuru Kenyatta, Dr William Ruto and Odinga has played prominent roles in Kenyan elections in the past two decades.

Only Kenyatta and Ruto have been declared winners by the courts whereas the electoral gods have not been friendly with Odinga as the wily old fox lost on his fifth attempt at becoming the numero uno of Kenyan politics.

The post electoral violence of 2007 left thousands dead whilst the alleged role played by Cambridge Analytica in the 2017 elections reminds one of the rise of Donald Trump in the United States and how social media can be used by politicians for intelligence gathering.

Kenya is a hotbed for extremism as demostrated by the attacks on the US embassy on August 7 1998 and the Al Shebaab-led attacks on Garisa University and Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi.

The Kenyan government, in all formats, even as far back as 1976 during the Raid on Entebbe by Israeli Special Forces, has twerked to Western interests and this twerking has left the east African country vulnerable to extremist violence.

This vulnerability, together with contested elections, makes Kenya a candidate for all forms of nascent threats faced by a modern day state.

The Kenyan Disinformation Factory really played a prominent role during the just-ended plebiscite. Social media influencers were paid as much as US$400 per hashtag to misinform about political foes. This campaign ended up posing risks to the electoral process as people speculated that another orgy of violence was going to ensue as a consequence of deliberate disinformation on social media.

Therefore, the contested nature of Kenyan politics can be equated to events that replicate themselves each electoral cycle in Zimbabwe.

In Gokwe-Kabuyuni, a by-election was won on social media and lost in the ballot box. The losers alleged rigging, intimidation and violence as reasons for defeat.

A mere fortnight later, by-elections were held in Bulilima and out of the three contested wards, the opposition snatched two and the ruling party retained one.

This time there were no allegations of electoral chicanery but instead a celebration of the "efficacy of the rural-based electoral mobilisation campaign strategy".

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa tweeted, and later deleted, praising Thokozani Khupe for her "sterling work" in ensuring the people of Bulilima voted for the opposition. This is indicative of faith and trust in the effectiveness of our electoral laws.

One wonders then why, when results go against others we end up having the Kenyan scenario in Zimbabwe.

In prior seasons, all forms of excuses were given from the clumsy "moving X" hypothesis to the shocking "fulcrum and pith" excuse enunciated in eloquent English.

Amidst all this, indeed, Kenya is a sign that the will of the people must be respected and judges no longer are willing to be used as tools to hoodwink the will of the electorate.

Kenya is a sign that Twitter is a perennial loser when it comes to elections as, just like Odinga, the social media platform has succeeded in losing yet another election.

Kenyan poll has shown how social media misleads.

  • Sapien is a trade and security analyst

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