Let’s use social media for a worthy course; promoting unity and cohesion

Posted: April 20, 2013 in Politics/Current issues

 

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It’s now two months after the country went to in the general elections. An election that was viewed by observers and analysts, both national and internationally to be one of the most competitive elections in Kenyan history, particularly among the two top presidential aspirants Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Uhuru Kenyatta went further to emerge the winner hence becoming the fourth and also youngest Kenyan president.

His competitor, the then prime minister Raila Odinga went to the country’s supreme court to challenge Uhurus election citing electoral irregularities during the entire electoral process, especially the tallying of results. The Supreme Court, under the leadership of chief justice Willy Mutunga in its ruling upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as president. A decision which Raila Odinga accepted despite some forms of violence experienced in Kisumu and some parts of Nairobi by his supported who termed the ruling as unfair.

It is noted that during the entire election campaign period, both aspirants made good use of the social media a very key tool of communication which has become synonymous among Kenyans. These sites included facebook, twitter, blogs and websites which these leaders used to sell their manifesto to the electorate. The two leaders even after the election still make good use of these sites informing their supports and Kenyans on the progress they are making.

One thing that came out during these entire periods is how Kenyans continue using these sites as an avenue of insulting each other, insulting other communities which they are not politically affiliated too, What came to be known as the highest form of post-election violence on social media. Any political post posted on facebook or twitter has always received mixed reactions from Kenyans commenting on it.  Some this post amounting to hate speech and incitement. Prior to the elections, ugly and demeaning on our social media had tribal elements and it left so many of us worried that it would spark a reprise of the 2007-2008 violence which left thousands of people dead and displaced. Two months down the line and the situation is not different.

Social media is a very powerful tool and how we use it really matters. In some countries, it has been used to mobilize citizens, incite them to even overthrow governments. These sides apart from the political class have been used to promote divisions among Kenyans, especially the youth who in terms of percentage are members of these sites.

Blogs have been created by some Kenyans to promote hate speech and the posts which are easily accessible tell a very worrying story.

Our country is still healing from the 2007-2008 post-election violence and what needs to be done is creating unity. The fact that a president from one community whom some Kenyan on facebook or twitter is not affiliated to won or lost the election is not a reason for you to insult him and his supporters. Some facebook groups have been created, some of which I cannot name because of their sensitive nature. These groups posts gain so many likes within hours of their creation and the post being shared in them are just so worrying. These groups are in support or against some of these leaders being in office.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), under the leadership of Mzalendo Kibunja has time and again promised to crack the whip on people behind this forms of hate speech, but nothing much has been done. At one point, Police spokesman David Owino even admitted that the police and NCIC had failed to stop hate speech.

As we move in to this new government, Kenyans should use these sites positively by uniting Kenyans. The government, with the NCIC should intensify its efforts and monitoring how they are being used. Unless this is done, social media, a powerful tool of communication as it has become will plunge our country somewhere we might not like.

Nixon Kanali, Nairobi

(Kenya Institute of Mass Communication) 

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