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Social Media Is Not A Threat To Kenya’s National Security You Have More Dangerous Vices To Worry About

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Writer, Kenya West

Writer, Kenya West

You can’t eat your cake and have quickly challenged in African context given how the power elites for the longest time in history have been able to control the narrative and information flow in the traditional media. It has made it possible to sell garbage wrapped nicely as candy pack. Due to their tight grip on the traditional media, the African power elites have had fields day manipulating the traditional media and having their way with whichever social fraud they commit. Simple script, if it didn’t appear on the press it didn’t happen, that’s how the shots have been called.

New age media, the internet era, has completely revolutionized information dissemination and consumption sending a distress call to the big boys. Business has ceased being usual, the horse has gone wild and not even the harshest stroke seem useful in taming. The Internet has given rise to a new breed of citizen journalism with bloggers taking center stage. The ball is no longer dribbled by the traditional media alone; the bloggers are changing the game’s dynamics.

In the recent times, bloggers in Kenya have come under radar especially those deemed critical to the government and influential figures at large. In January alone about ten bloggers were arrested amongst them Cyprian Nyakundi, Yassin Juma, Patrick Safari, Judith Akolo, Eddie Illah,Robert Alia and Dikembe Disembe

The power elites in Kenya have targeted the bloggers in major clampdown specifically those critical to the system. In a well-orchestrated manner, arrests have been flying all over in a desperate bid to gag and suffocate the information flow new order pushed by the bloggers.

Blogger Cyprian Nyakundi

Blogger Cyprian Nyakundi

When a hyena wants to eat its children, it first accuses them of smelling like goats an African proverb that captures best the technique robust system adopted in dealing with the blogging menaces. The government being unhappy with the game has resorted to intimidating cards through unwarranted arrests. Section 29 of the information and communication act of misusing licensed telecommunication gadget, the same quote across all the arrested. The government has been accused by human rights watch for hiding behind this law as they pounce on bloggers.

Article 33 of the Kenyan constitution, guarantees everyone right to freedom of expression which goes further allowing them to seek, receive or impart ideas and information. It’s, therefore, selfish for the system to be impartial to the spirit of the constitution. If anything, you only worry about scrutiny of you have a lot to hide. Why would the system and power elites be concerned about citizens seeking information if they’re not doing anything dirty?

The bloggers have threatened the livelihoods of social fraudsters, big business that was initially immune to scrutiny and exposing of their company’s ills are left shivering as bloggers actively prove to be untamed. Controversial Kenyan blogger, Cyprian Nyakundi is currently jumping from one courtroom to the other thanks to legal actions against him after exposing big business like Safaricom and BIDCO Africa. Companies that were thought to be untouchable and could move with utmost ease and impunity no longer can.

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Threat to national security

Clampdown on bloggers critical of the government has been read by many as an attack on the freedom of expression and ugly bid by the system to continue controlling the information flow. More than often, bloggers have been accused of posting information seen as the threat to national security, in the right appetite of a hyena eating its kids, the hyena in this case Kenyan government has painted the bloggers as biggest threats to the national security way above terrorists slaughtering Kenyans. Begging the question, are bloggers the threat to national security in Kenya? The threat to safety is the umbrella used to gain public sympathy as the elites embark on mass lashing. Priorities should be rewritten, and issues faced head on without using bloggers as an excuse. The following according to me are the biggest threats to national security.

Corruption

Terrorism as a global scale problem has mainly hit Kenya and an apparent headache to the government. Less than four weeks ago, Al Shabaab attacked Kenya Defence Force (KDF) El Adde Camp in Somalia killing an unknown number of soldiers though preliminary state figures put it at a double figure. Corruption has facilitated terror attacks to a larger extent. Movement of weapons and terrorists in and out of the borders has been blamed on corrupt officers manning the borders. Several reports including those from UN, Justice For Journalists (JFJ) point out at a possibility of high-ranking army officials entangled in illegal sugar smuggling racket and alcohol trade in Somalia, Kismayu airport with KDF notably named as a major player.

Such selfish interests at the expense of our national security are a bigger threat than bloggers and when such issues are highlighted and questioned one is quickly named threat to national safety and risks being a visitor of the state.

Extensively, corruption in public offices, denying opportunities to deserving citizens, cutting off jobs only breeds more criminals contributing to the insecurity surge.

Incompetence

Blogger and journalist Yassin Juma were arrested just moments before he could publish information exposing incompetence issues on the El Adde attack. Yassin claims he was in contact with a source who revealed to him to have provided intelligence to the relevant agencies on the impending attack on the KDF Camp weeks before they were raided. Issues as to when the information was received, preparatory measures adopted by the commanders in readiness. It’s a sacrilege even to think about questioning the competency of the army. Westgate brought into focus some competence flaws by the KDF, but when bloggers and journalists like KTN’s Mohammed Ali raised the issues, they were quickly called out and dismissed as terrorist sympathizers. A miscalculation can lead to hundreds of deaths. Incompetence in any security force is a significant threat to the national security

Blogger Robert Alai

Blogger Robert Alai

Marginalization

Historically, marginalization of certain communities has been evident, contributing to the growth of hostile citizenship. With the sensitivity that it comes with, many have resolved to speak about it in low tones but look to kill a bedbug, and you have to use two fingers. In unity there’s power. Marginalization on conservative and religious perspectives can be blamed on the rise of insecurity in Kenya. Citizens from the North Eastern region of the country, have for decades complained of being given second class citizens compared to what they feel others are getting. Economic marginalization that has left significant parts of it impoverished can be attributed to the rise in terrorists pile up. Most of the youths that crossed over to Somalia to join the terror group have reportedly blamed their shift on unemployment with the militia promising lavish employment opportunities. While it’s morally unjustifiable, the truth is not any far.

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Gagged Media

The traditional media in Kenya is having powerful forces fingerprints stamped all over it. The information control is at its all time highest. Just last month, Daily Nation fired its editor Dennis Galava for writing an article critical of the government, this step is said to have been pushed by powerful forces from above. Galava is not the only journalist to have faced the noose, and some journalists have, and there’s a cold order in the newsrooms against inking anything critical to the system. Information is power and actively informed citizenry is the biggest threat to power masters as they become exquisitely inquisitive, alert and hindering to their manipulative ways.

Being a curious society, the more system attempt to gag the media, bloggers will continue to grow as the best alternative for unfiltered news which in turn blossoms their careers. Four weeks after the El Adde attack, the government is yet to come out and give precise figures. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab seems to have won the war on propaganda, have released their alleged casualty numbers which they put at a 100+ number. Instead of being consistent in information flow, the government resorted to gagging the bloggers yet themselves created that void by not giving information to the public who are hungry to get the finer details. While it’s ethically immoral to post photos such as that Yassin was arrested for, it’s not in any way illegal.

Flawed communication strategy

Kenyans on Twitter recently mocked President Kenyatta on #UhuruInKenya this followed concerns about his constant foreign travels. Kenyans felt he’s barely in the country. The administrative communication team came in later to give clarifications on the need for such trips and benefits to the country. This was a too much yet too late move. The team should’ve developed a strategy consistently to give the public information on most of his trips and not waiting till the bomb goes off.

During Westgate and most recently El Adde attack, the government has proven not to be engaging best of strategies in handling the crisis situations. Too much information withholding is giving space to the Al Shabaab to propel their propaganda. Constraining the information in such a times is what gets the bloggers hitting the rail, and the enemies can take advantage to sell a spade as a big spoon. The Clear communication strategy will go a long way in fighting the war on terror.

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Intimidation

Out of ten bloggers arrested, only one would eventually face charges. Most are arrested, held illegally in custody for days before being released without single charge pressed. This is a clear blueprint of intimidation on bloggers to tame their mouths but has worked the other way round. Blogger Nyakundi, who was arrested and released, after two days without any charges against him, says,”these moves are intimidating theatrics put out to try and gag the bloggers. I was asked why I’m always attacking the government and about my accomplices, this is unacceptable, we’re in a democratic country where everyone is free to support any political agenda.” Similarly, Yassin Juma was released without any charge pressed against him, and that has been the case for Robert Alai, Dikembe Disembe, Patrick Safari and the rest. The fact that no charge gets to be pressed against them is a clear indication that there’s no crime committed and the intentions for arrests are only to play scare tactic role.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery

Own up

One of the greatest minds in humanity, Aristotle said,”to avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing” Jubilee government holding the throne, must look forward to criticism. While they’re going for the bloggers as the threat to national security, real terrorists are taking advantage to restructure themselves. Criticism doesn’t equate to being unpatriotic but rather shows one’s love and concern for the country and only pointing out loopholes for the betterment. Going for bloggers and tolerating economic terrorists, corruption cartels milking the country dry is equivalent to punching the air blindly while the enemy was strategizing cocking the gun behind you.

If you can’t beat them

As Kenya moves closer to 2017 general elections, the bloggers will have let role in information flow. Coming from a violent election and memories still clear of 2007/08, the country is vulnerable. Only those with a lot to hide are threatened by the bloggers, the government or the power elites shouldn’t be worried if all their dealings are stainless. The media has the jurisdiction of being the public’s watchdog, and if it fails to play the mandate, bloggers are restructuring the game and playing that role.

Public offices and power holders must be open to scrutiny and lethal criticism. They must be put into accountability. Fighting bloggers by painting them as the threat to national security with unconstitutional charges is uncouth and backward. To completely tame the bloggers as they are deemed enemies of the state, run a clean system this, in turn, will deny fodder to the bloggers who’re now increasingly watchful. Arresting and intimidating the bloggers has proved to be ineffective and only working as a rating booster for the bloggers. The game has completely changed, and the business as usual syndrome showed the door.

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Kenya West is a trained investigative independent journalist and a socio-political commentator on matters Kenya and Africa. Do you have a story, Scandal you want me to write on? Send me tips to [in.kenyawest@protonmail.com]

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