When conflicts erupted in Kenya after the elections, many fingers pointed at the newspapers and radio as the sources of hatred and fanning the fires of tribal hatred that have been lit over time. None focussed much on blogs and online forums. But it has proved that even online forums have been breeding grounds for war mongers.
Mashada forum, Kenya's first online chat room was forced to close after discussions got out of control. White Africa reports about his shock:
As you may already know, I’ve been having quite a problem regulating Mashada.com, despite having recently hired people to moderate the forums. It is starting to become a reflection of what is going on on the ground in Kenya. I’d hate for it to hinder our current efforts since I’m directly connected to it, therefore I’m having to shut down the forums until further notice. Facilitating civil discussions and debates has become virtually impossible.
White African further notes that:
The post-election violence in Kenya is horrible. Most of the people who use Mashada are part of the Kenyan diaspora based in the US and Europe, but also a healthy amount from Kenya. So, the vast majority of people using it are seeing and hearing about the atrocities happening to their friends and family and are rightfully upset.
The situation has been so bad that some comments have had to be deleted by the moderators. Kenyan Pundits gives an example:
I’ve deleted a comment made by someone about the hate speech on Mashada, not because I disagree with the concerns raised but because I know the links included would have been bait for guys to respond with their own hateful comments.
I have recently had a conversation with David about the kinds of inciteful and hateful speech that people are putting up on Mashada, and what he was doing about it – beyond my disgust with what people are putting up there… I was/am concerned that it would undermine the wonderful work that he is doing with Ushahidi. David says he’s swamped and the moderators are burning out fast. He tried to shut down the website for a week, but that didn’t help. He is considering paying moderators, but is also welcoming ideas from others (any willing to help him with moderating).
During the times of heightened animosity, bloggers virtually took sides. Recently, Kumekucha wrote “the truth about the Kikuyus” and noted:
There cannot be and should not be any attempt to negotiate an obvious violation and abuse of office. Doing so will only further worsen an already deeply troubling situation. None of the so called high profile mediators currently in Kenya, voted in the general election of 27th December 2007, and their presence is of no value whatsoever to the masses who voted for the “de facto” President of Kenya Raila Amolo Odinga and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). The continued presence of these impostors on Kenyan soil and their empty attempts at purported mediation,only serves to further infuriate and insult the overwhelming majority that voted for Raila Odinga and ODM.
On the other hand, Kenyan enterprenuer writes about Raila as an evil man hell bent on capturing power:
This idea by Raila that Kibaki is trying to kill his way to a majority in parliament is crazy and it is where Raila’s evil treachery comes into play. He is using these deaths to score political points and to spur continued violence (he knows these deaths are not connected to Kibaki!!).
Look at his speech right after Were’s death:
**Raila’s Hyperbole: “An emotional Raila eulogised the slain MP, saying his life and blood would not go in vain. “His blood will water the tree of liberation… we will walk tall and stronger, we shall plant a flag on top of the mountain to remember him … Were shall be remembered … we will remember you brother.” Please Negroe , please.
Raila and Ruto have decided that if they don’t get power, they are going to plunge the country into chaos (but of course, they will not do the fighting; they’ll get others to do it for them). I believe Kibaki is being told to forget about negotiating with these two thugs. They must fight them to the end and bring them down (with the ultimate knockdown reserved for William Ruto).
Siasa duni offers to demonstrate how President Kibaki stole the election and draws a parallel between Kibaki and the Bush administration:
The events also have deeply unsettled the Bush administration, which has relied on Kenya as an ally in the war on terror and a bulwark of stability in East Africa. Official results gave Kibaki an edge of 231,728 votes, or 2 percent, out of about 10 million cast. Initial results of an exit poll by the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute found that Raila Odinga had won by an 8 percent margin. Election officials allowed five accredited Kenyan observers into the tallying centre only in the final phase of vote-counting, and three of them shared their accounts: all said that the gravest cheating occurred in that room, where commissioners—all appointed by Kibaki— compiled returns before announcing them to the public.
It’s impressionable how the online world always mirrors the real one. At Global Voices we tend to emphasise the positive stories of people who are using the internet for good things – but of course all the bad things that exist in real life are also present online. With that analogy in mind – imagine how hard the work of the moderators is! Who is their real world equivalent? My thoughts go out to Kenyans, I hope this conflict will soon deescalate.
The csmonitor.com had an update on some examples of spontaneous citizen reporting and some of the more organized site’s shortcomings, including verification of violence. Thanks to Global Voices for aggregating these bloggers’ comments – and showing some of the hindrances to online media.
What is happening in Kenya is simply awful with countless innocent people caught in the crossfire. We must try to emphasize the good we can do both online and directly in an attempt at hastening aid and at convincing international powers to action.
A good follow up to this blog is an article by OneWorld which outlines the crisis and gives information as to what others are doing and what you can do as an individual. http://us.oneworld.net/article/view/157386/1/7263
The electoral body closed campaigns on 25th of december.Online world was the only place information could be passed.This included propaganda from both sides of the conflict.Modarators did a great job to prevent this hate campaigns but one wonders whether a tight lid on a volcano prevents an Erruption.The efforts of reconciliation should focus on long term solutions so that five years down the line rucurence does not occur.
What I am having a hard time understanding is why there are so many people online spewing so much hatred when they:
1) Are not directly involved in the fighting on the ground.
And very few of them speak as though their families or belongings are in jeopardy.
I think it’s sad that people can get so emotional, in a negative sense, about something that hasn’t affected them as deeply as it may have affected those who lost their lives or their homes.
The contrast between Kumekucha and Kenyan Entrepreneur is striking. One is attacking one man, Raila Odinga… yet the other is attacking a whole community.
Kibaki and Odinga should expect to be attacked in their running off for the presidency, but nobody should be blaming Jaluos en masse for Odinga’s ills, and nobody should be blaming Kikuyus en masse for Kibaki’s ills.
To Jakob; what’s even more amazing about Kumekucha is the comments. People have so much anger and frustration to unleash.
The online world levels the play ground so that what we can not be able to do offline, online we can be able to do.
It’s quite regrettable that mashada had to close thier forums because those bend to commit thier evil acts were more overwhelming.
For those bend to do good and succeed given the limited nature of resources, then online is the place to venture into.
Tribalism is an evil that can only be counteracted by the good that transcends all regardless of tribal considerations such as a more educated citizens, a thriving economy, more vibrant and independent institutions….
Unless we address core issues like poverty eradication, disease and education, tribalism in kenya is here to stay.