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Kenya, Somalia: Twitter War – Kenyan Army Versus Al Shabaab

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Somalia, Politics, Religion, Technology, War & Conflict

Kenya's military incursion into Somalia [1] against the militant group Al Shabaab dubbed “Operation Linda Nchi” [2] (Swahili for “Operation Defend the Country”) has turned into Twitter war. This came after the official military spokesperson Major E ChirChir going by the Twitter handle  @MajorEChirchir [3] posted old photos claiming that a Kenyan Al Shabaab recruit had been stoned to death recently by the group members because of “a difference of opinion”. Image of the now deleted tweet can be seen at this here [4]

It later became apparent that the photos were actually taken by a Somalian journalist in 2009 and does not even feature a Kenyan Al Shabab recruit. The Kenyan military spokesperson has displayed a sense of responsibility by acknowledging responsibility and stating in one tweet [5]:


Official logo of the Kenyan army. Photo source: @MajorEChirchir.

@MajorEChirchir [7]: #PicturePosting [8] I take responsibility for posting an old photo, but execution did happen on Tuesday. Friday execution likely.

Reacting to @MajorEChirchir's tweets, @SelfMadeAbdi [9]asks:

@SelfMadeAbdi [10]: Are we suppose to believe u now?

@Dannmanufc [11] writes:

@Dannmanufc [12]: loosing trust of your updates

@kithembe [13]says:

@kithembe [14]: @MajorEChirchir #PicturePosting it is sad but stop posting old pictures.


Image of @MajorEChirchir tweets. Image source: globalpost.com

His post has raised furor online with a number of Twitter users venting their anger, distrust and opinions on the issue under the hashtag #PicturePosting [16]. Tweep @mamayaimani [17]writes:

@mamayaimani [18]:
@MajorEChirchir #PicturePosting You do realise what his does to your credibility, don't you? You see what it does for the other side?

Twitter user @geoffreyork [19] blasts @MajorEChirchir by revealing:

@geoffreyork [20]: Here are the 2009 photos from a British newspaper: http://bit.ly/yDYRn4 [21] Compare them to Major C's tweeted photos. Identical.

The Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Twitter page, @HMSpress [22], took a few quips at the Kenya Defence Forces stating:

@HMSpress [23]: For those interested: the incident took place in 2009, the man wasn’t #Kenyan [24], it wasn’t in Kismayo, and it wasn’t HSM http://www.dhanbaal.com/main/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=272 [25]

@HMSpress [26]: They seem unsophisticated, even in their propaganda campaign. A simple Google search would have saved them such an embarrassment

Kenyans and other interested persons responded to the whole fiasco and here is a sample of their tweets:

Tech Blogger @RobertAlai [27]comments:

@RobertAlai [28]: @MajorEChirchir [29] we are waiting for your answers. You tried to fool us. We need reality not faked scenes

Okwaroh [30]states:

@Okwaroh [31]: @MajorEChirchir [29] and to what extent should we tolerate your ‘omissions’. This raises loads of questions about the credibility of your WORD

Responding to the misleading photos, one Kenyan Twitter user, @Jkisioh [32], coins a new terms “Twicide” and asks:

@JKisioh [33]: Has @MajorEChirchir [29] committed twicide?

The Kenyan military spokesperson may have thought that the tweet would be easily consumed by unsuspecting netizens and believed as gospel truth. The veracity of his statements are not only being put to test by the Al Shabaab and its sympathizers but also by Kenyan citizens as “Tweet war” and social media warfare continue.

The Kenyan capital, Nairobi, saw two deadly grenade attack incidents [34] linked to Al Shabaab last year: one at a popular entertainment club and the other at a crowded bus stop in downtown Nairobi.