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 Social media started as an avenue more convenient for social networking. Over time, social media sites have adapted to be tools of empowering businesses, being commercialised to build brands and social influencers. But more recently, social media has broadened its uses, reaching a point where its spaces can be manipulated to raise awareness for social and political changes.

In the past few years, several global political campaigns have been elevated, if not pioneered, by social media. We have seen the global climate change campaign through the #schoolstrike4climate campaign that saw many students around the world leave the classroom to make bold statements about the need for a safe environmental future.

We also saw the vigorous #BlackLivesMatter movement that spilled from the confines of the black American experience to be a slogan for many black equality protests around the world.

More locally, in the previous months, there were great trends aligned with a dissatisfaction with the ruling government. The hashtag #JubileeTumechoka, #DissolvetheGovernment, and #WajingaNyinyi all brought to the surface frustrations of leadership and called for the upright consciousness of the public to demand more and better from the leaders. But often times, these online protests, in Kenya, failed to translate to mass protests on the ground, in the streets.

They could not compare to the #BlackLivesMovement campaigns which took place both online and offline, stimulating conversations about race and also having an impact on other areas such as in publishing where literature about race, and by black people, climbed the sales charts. The Kenyan social media trends and political statements also dimmed in comparison to the Anti-extradition law amendment bill in Hong Kong which saw millions of protestors relentlessly campaign in the streets for a period of months.

Social media protests on Kenyan social media could easily have been narrowed down to petty complaints and many activists might have easily been referred to as “keyboard warriors”. But in the last few weeks, the role of social media in engaging political discussion and being a legitimate form of activism is becoming much more prominent. Just last month, Homeboyz terminated several of its radio hosts after remarks that allegedly propagated dangerous attitudes on violence towards women.

The radio conversation caused an uproar, especially on twitter, with many accounts demanding for change in how the media confronts gender-based violence. Following an apology from radio personality Shaffie Weru, the campaigners recognised than an apology wasn’t enough, and so did some corporate bodies, most notably EABL who withdrew their sponsorship of the radio, an act that corresponded with the subsequent termination of the said radio hosts. 

Evidently, the activism online transpired to a level that triggered the engagement of other stakeholders whose influence contribute to even greater change. But that has not been the only evidence of social media trends increasingly leading to change.

Recently, Kenyans have expressed great frustrations over the country’s mountain of debt. This frustration reached a boiling point when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced an approval for a USD 2.34billion loan to Kenya.

The fund, IMF claims, is meant to catalyse the country’s progression in curbing the effects of COVID and underlining efforts to increase transparency. But whatever the purpose of the loan, Kenyans expressed the aching exhaustion at the leadership’s failure to pay off the existing over Ksh.7trillion accumulated in debt and continuing.

Through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Kenyans in their own posts, or through the hashtags such as #IMFstoploaningkenya, have written directly to IMF demanding they withdraw loans directed at the country. But Kenyans have done more than just tweet or post, over 250,000 signatures are reported to be signed against IMF loans.

Though the effect of these signatures is yet to be concluded, it is a great step showing an increased participation of the public in matters of international economy, dependency, and a democratisation of opinions regarding the financial stability of the country.

In being conscious of the national economy, many Kenyans have also utilised social media to bring to light the issues of tax and healthcare. Recently, USAID donated anti-retroviral medicine apparently worth over Ksh.2billion and were then taxed Ksh.90million by the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Many Kenyans depending on the medicine were left without it as government held on to the medicine. But after outrage on withholding necessary medicine was shared on social media, the ministry of health finally announced that the medicine will be released for the patients whom it serves, and the tax that KRA demanded will be dismissed. This is another win for the recent bouts of social media activism that gradually builds the belief that change can be achieved.

Social media, then, might have started as just as a place for networking, but it is unequivocally so much more than that today. Where activism has previously been a face of fists raised high in the streets, the last couple of months have proven that all spaces, even virtual ones, can be avenues of change, when used well, and resiliently.

Internally displaced Congolese families near their makeshift shelters at an unofficial camp in Barriere, Ituri province, eastern DRC [File: Olivia Acland/Reuters]

 

Uganda has told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the billions of dollars in reparations sought by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the former’s role in the conflict in the latter’s Ituri province could ruin its economy.

The DRC’s “claims are dangerously disproportionate”, Uganda’s attorney general, William Byaruhanga, told the UN court on Thursday, adding that granting them would have “staggering economic consequences”.

On Monday, lawyers for the DRC had told the court they were seeking $4.3bn in reparations payments for the alleged victims of Uganda’s involvement in the 1998-2003 conflict in mineral-rich Ituri.

They also claimed a further $2.8bn for damages to wildlife, $5.7bn for macroeconomic damages and over $700m for loss of natural resources – bringing total reparation demands to over $13bn.

The DRC’s representative before the court, Paul-Crispin Kakhozi Bin-Bulongo, told the judges that the damage done to his country by Uganda during the conflict in Ituri was of “incommensurate magnitude” and said Uganda had not negotiated in good faith during reparations talks.

The long-running dispute over Uganda’s involvement in Ituri was first brought before the court in 1999. In 2005, the ICJ ruled that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of the eastern Congolese province with its own troops and supporting other armed groups in the area during the conflict.

It also ruled that the DRC had violated international law with an attack on the Ugandan embassy in Kinshasa.

The court ordered the neighbours to negotiate mutual reparations. In 2015, however, the DRC returned to the UN court saying the talks were not progressing.

After setting up a commission of experts to help it assess damage amounts, the court is holding hearings this week before it issues a decision on reparations. - Reuters/Al Jazeera

Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi. Photo Standard

 

One Kenya Alliance has dismissed claims of being a 2022 project of State mandarins keen on influencing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession.

Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi – a principal of the new outfit – yesterday said those pushing the ‘false’ narrative were politicians scared of the traction the alliance is gaining, especially after winning three by-elections in Western and Ukambani regions.

Mudavadi said certain politicians who had all along believed they would take over from Uhuru have resorted to propaganda after realising their chances of occupying State House were dwindling by day. 

“If you take a closer look, you will realise those calling us a project are the people currently working closely with the Government. They are closer to the Government than us,” said Mudavadi.

The alliance is perceived to be packaging itself as the alternative to former premier Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, while at the same time endearing itself to President Kenyatta. Raila’s allies in the last couple of weeks, have claimed a plot to isolate the former PM by State machinery while propping the four principals in the One Kenya Alliance.

Ruto has also in previous interviews dismissed the alliance bringing together Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu boss and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangúla as of no consequence.

But yesterday, Mudavadi said: “We should tell Kenyans how we intend to change their lives if they elect us and then leave it up to them to decide the next president.” - Moses Nyamori, The Standard

Photo Anadolu Agency

 

Genocide ideology and divisive politics among Rwandans have fallen sharply from 25.8% in 2015 to 8.6% today, according to a new government report.

The Rwanda Reconciliation Barometer 2020, released Wednesday, also showed that since the 1994 genocide against ethnic Tutsis, unity and reconciliation among Rwandans has improved from 92.5% in 2015 to 94.7% in 2020.

The downward trend in genocide ideology is attributable to stringent laws that punish genocide ideology as a crime and other related crimes, said Fidele Ndayisaba, executive secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), unveiling the report in the capital Kigali.

Efforts to foster unity and reconciliation among Rwandans in the last four years are bearing fruit, Ndayisaba said, praising political will as well as good governance measures.

The percentage of people who view themselves as Rwandans rather than through the lens of ethnic Tutsis or Hutus also rose from 95.6% in 2015 to 98.2%, the report said.

The survey aimed to assess the status of reconciliation in the landlocked East African country.

Ndayisaba commended the government, religious leaders, media, civil society organizations, private businesses, and development partners for their role in fostering unity and reconciliation among Rwandans since 1994.

The report was based on a survey conducted in 810 villages across the country, involving 12,600 people from 9,720 households, among them prison inmates.

In 1994 some 1 million people, mostly in the Tutsi community and moderate Hutus, were killed in a genocide by Hutu extremists during a massacre within a span of 100 days. - James Tasamba, Anadolu Agency

CURFEW TRAFFIC JAMS: Nairobi motorists were on Saturday night stranded as police blocked major roads AFTER curfew time. Photo The Star

 

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i is set to appear before a Senate committee over the confusion and chaos marring enforcement of curfew in Nairobi and elsewhere.

The Senate’s National Security and Foreign Relations committee has invited the CS to appear before it next Wednesday to explain the mayhem.

'Super Minister' Matiang'i s known for ignoring and snubbing MPs' requests and summonses to appear and explain pressing issues. 

The meeting follows a public outcry after the police enforcing the 8pm to 4am curfew in Nairobi blocked some motorists past curfew from going home.

Motorists on Thika Superhighway were the most affected by police roadblocks. Many motorists spent the night in the cold.

“Following the enormous public outcry through social media, Members of the Committee were greatly perturbed by the chaotic scenes on Saturday April 17 and Sunday April 18 along the Thika Superhighway regarding the overnight roadblocks,” acting Chairperson Fred Outa said.

To get a clearer perspective regarding the 'mayhem', the committee has invited the Interior CS to appear before it, he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, he said police hindered the travel of approved persons holding legal permits to operate during curfew hours.

They include doctors, ambulances, food transporters, media personnel and government workers approved to operate.

Nairobi is among the five counties in disease hot zones where an 8pm to 4pm curfew has been imposed to help contain the spread of Covid-19.

Others are Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Nakuru. Countrywide, curfew runs from 10pm until 4am.

Outa said the committee was concerned with the unfolding events and asked aloud whether police have established "kangaroo courts" to punish Kenyans.

“.. and if so, under which law?" he asked.

“If Kenyans have indeed broken the law, then why not charge them and have them appear before the courts and face punishment according to the law?” he asked.

Matiang'i will be asked to explain why police have "have subjected Kenyans to operate in panic, resulting in several accidents that have occurred, emanating from their actions",

He will also will also  be asked to explain an apparent lack of coordination in enforcement in the capital. - Julius Otieno, The Star

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