World Kenya says social media won't be blocked after warning to Facebook
Mount Kenya: Where the next president could be chosen
The helicopter lands in the middle of rice fields, heralding the arrival of Kenyan presidential candidate William Ruto as he seeks votes from the densely populated, politically influential heartland of Mount Kenya. Nearly six decades after independence in 1963, Mount Kenya continues to be at the heart of Kenyan politics. Three of the country's four presidents -- Jomo Kenyatta, his son Uhuru, and Mwai Kibaki -- are Kikuyu.The economically powerful community has always backed its own people -- a widespread phenomenon in Kenya, where the tribal vote has played a big role in previous elections.
Kenya insisted Saturday that social media would not be blocked, after a state watchdog warned Facebook it risked suspension if it did not tackle hate speech on its platform.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said Friday it had given Facebook's parent Meta seven days to act following a report it allowed more than a dozen hateful political ads in the run-up to Kenya's August 9 election.
But Joe Mucheru, Kenya's minister of information, communications and technology, said on Twitter Saturday: "Media, including social media, will continue to enjoy press freedom in Kenya."
Cool head in a rough region, Kenya faces test in election
In his final weeks as president, Uhuru Kenyatta has been busier than usual playing peacemaker in East Africa, thawing tensions with Somalia, intervening in Congo's crisis, and hosting talks between Sudan and Ethiopia. - Reliable partner - Foreign partners have increasingly relied on Kenya as a steady hand in East Africa, and fear an internal crisis would deprive the region of stability and leadership at a critical time. "Weak states, feuding states, can't play the role of a diplomatic anchor," said Cameron Hudson, a former US official now senior associate at CSIS Africa.
He said it was "not clear" what legal framework the NCIC planned to use to suspend Facebook, adding: "Govt is on record. We are NOT shutting down the Internet."
His comments were echoed by Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i who said Kenyans' right to free expression was enshrined in the constitution.
"And, we as a government, have no intention of infringing on that right."
The NCIC is an independent ethnic cohesion watchdog set up after the 2007-8 post-election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.
It does not have the power to suspend Facebook but can make recommendations to the government's Communications Authority.
The body's recommendations followed a report by advocacy group Global Witness and UK-based legal activist firm Foxglove that said Facebook had accepted and broadcast at least 19 ads in both English and Swahili calling for rape, slaughter and beheadings.
'A dirty game': Young Kenyans shun election hype
As a familiar campaign jingle brings the Kenyan crowd to their feet, Hellen Atieno joins her compatriots and sways to the catchy tune at a political rally in the lakeside city of Kisumu. Just don't expect the 23-year-old to vote. "I have only come to the rally because there is money. I hope there will be something," Atieno told AFP, referring to the widespread Kenyan practice of offering freebies to prospective voters. Currently without a job, the former fishmonger says she is so fed up with the country's insular political class that she plans to stay home when Kenya votes on August 9 in parliamentary and presidential polls.
- 'Addressing errors' -
Asked about the NCIC warning, a Meta spokesperson said: "We've taken extensive steps to help us catch hate speech and inflammatory content in Kenya, and we're intensifying these efforts ahead of the election.
"Despite these efforts, we know that there will be examples of things we miss or we take down in error, as both machines and people make mistakes. That's why we have teams closely monitoring the situation and addressing these errors as quickly as possible."
With its diverse population and large ethnic voting blocs, Kenya has long suffered politically motivated communal violence around election time, often blamed on hate speech.
An undercover expose by UK media revealed that British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to target political ads and spread misinformation during Kenya's 2013 and 2017 presidential campaigns.
AFP is a partner of Meta, providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
Kenya 2022: The most boring election .
Interesting things are happening in Kenya’s democracy. The August 9 election is not one of them.The fallacy at the centre of this is that democracy is something that happens every electoral cycle. Somehow over the last 30 years, not just in Kenya but around the world, the idea of democracy has been bled dry of any real meaning and distorted into a caricature of a stick figure dropping a piece of paper into a black box. This is the triumph of the democracy consultant: successfully translating complex social systems into two-year plans and 10-point performance indicators that must be attained before the donor’s budget cycle closes. But it is the tragedy of the people.