President Mwai Kibaki http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke
HumanIPO reported on January 9 the Kenyan government will be monitoring social media and will issue hefty fines of up to KSh1 million (US$11,000) or a three year jail term to those who are caught using hateful or ethnic language on social media.
The reason for the severity of the charges against hate speech aimed at the Kenyan general elections is due to the last election in 2007 in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected, but widely disputed by opponents.
The dispute led to bloodshed. 1,200 people were brutally murdered, many of which were burnt alive, hacked to death by machete or shot with bows-and-arrows when Kenya’s largest tribes turned on each other, placing the country on the brink of civil-war.
Thus Kagonya Awori and her Umani (web-based monitoring project) team of six have been tasked with monitoring Facebook and Twitter for any warning signs of a repeat that was the post-electoral tragedy of 2007.
Awori told Reuters she and her colleagues have reason to worry about escalating inter-tribal tensions.
“The amount of dangerous speech is going up but, this time, the people who are saying these things are not hiding at all... There are outright calls to kill, forcefully evict and steal as well as discriminate against members of particular communities,” said Awori.
Awori said that most of the hate speech has been found on Facebook and users posting the inflammatory content make no effort to hide their identity and in some cases reveal their location.
Awori’s team are also a part of Ushahidi (meaning “testimony” or “witness”), which is a network created in 2008 and utilises email, SMS and social media to pinpoint locations where violence is reported.
As a further preventative measure to curb the spread of inter-tribal animosity, Kenyan authorities have banned media outlets from printing or otherwise re-distributing hate speech. However, this has not stopped Kenyan civilians from spreading hate-speech through social media.
Kenyan authorities have also urged journalists to choose their words wisely to avoid inflaming tensions. “We will set you on fire before you set us on fire,” said Muthui Kariuki, government spokesperson as a warning to international journalists.
Kariuki believes the violence of 2007 to a large extent stemmed from information journalists wrote, subsequently passing it on to the Kenyan people.
An example of the online hate speech are calls to “chinja chinja” in Swahili, which translates to “butcher butcher” and to beat, kill, riot, loot and drive out other tribes.
There have not yet been any reports on arrests made but Nicholas Kamwende, head of the police in Kenya’s criminal investigations department in Nairobi assures that people will be taken to court for turning to social media to spread “abusive language”.