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Kenya: To protest or not to protest?’

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Breaking News, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Human Rights, Politics

Following role the social media site Twitter played in the Tunisian and Egyptian protests, Kenyans are discussing on Twitter whether to emulate these protests or not. Trending on Twitter are the hashtags #KenyaFeb28 [1] and #ChoosePeace [2]. Apparently, the former being a marshaling call for protests on 28 February 2011.

Antoneosoul [3]states some of  the issues surrounding the February 28 protest calls:

on #kenya28feb [4] we hoot at 7am, 1 and5:30pm, we hoot that we havent forgotten about IDPS (Internally Displaces Persons), HAGUE(apparently referring to the Kenyans named by the ICC as persons bearing most responsibility for the post election violence witnessed in the Country after the disputed 2008 Presidential Elections), CORRUPTION, JUSTICE, UNEMPLOYMENT! seriously!

IamGecci [5]believes that Kenyans should not just copy Egypt:

“copy Egypt? Please don't be stupid. We're still dealing with those PEV(2008 Post Election Violence) vibes”

AlindiG [6]in response states:

No one wants to copy Egypt, just wanna [want to]express [to the]top the elite that we are watching their actions, nothing violent

To counter the call for protests, other Kenyans are Tweeting on the hashtag #ChoosePeace [2]. Among those going for #ChoosePeace is David Mugo [7] a father of two, who states:

I am David Mugo, @raidarmax [8] a father of 2 daughters who need a peaceful Kenya. #ChoosePeace [9] over #Kenya28Feb [10]

Blogger Marvin Tumbo of Socialite Media Kenya [11], however, analyzes the issue of whether Kenyans can engage in political protests such as the ones witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia. In his opinion at the blog he states:

Generally looking at what Kenyans have posted on Facebook, Twitter, and on blogs, Tribalism is emerging as a leading hindrance to any form of revolution in Kenya. The others are Police Brutality especially in memory of the 2008 post election violence, a largely conservative middle class that would rather tweet than walk the streets …. and our love for Tea Breaks . Most countries are too divided internally that the consensus to revolt against a Government is never a cause for worry to most of these leaders.

At the Nairobian Perspective [12] the writer makes an interesting observation [13] perhaps querying whether the growing trend will result in greater Governmental scrutiny of Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook ..etc:

This trending development is of interest to many pundits as it impacts on the role of social media in voicing discontent, mobilization of mass protests in real time , freedom of expression and whether Governments should take an increasing role in policing , monitoring and or regulation of social media.Will perhaps the present developments result in greater Government scrutiny of Social media?

Kachwanya concludes that #KenyaFeb28 has failed [14]. He comes up with 10 reasons:

5. Kenya is tribal nation, whether you want to accept it or not. That does not mean people are stupid, it is just the way they are. So before you tell people to go to the streets you have to explain to them who you are targeting. At the corner there you might look at Kibaki as bad leader or failed leader but people from his tribe will not see that. You might consider Raila a populist but people from his tribe have different opinion. You might look at Kalonzo as “kaloser” withuot any concrete position on anything, relying on the divine intervention but people from his tribe see a different picture. You might not want to associate with Ruto and Uhuru because of their shoddy past but to some of their tribesmen and women, it is a political witch hunt. So be careful

6. Twitter and Facebook in Kenya are places for the middle class, well educated lot and kids from well off backgrounds. These are people who are somehow comfortable on their skins and value stability over chaos. They may support the idea but in reality they will not take to the streets. If you want people to go to the street, get a way to communicate with guys in Kibera , Mathare, Kawangware, else Good Luck

Whether the call for peaceful protests on Twitter will amount to something remains to be seen.