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It is now clear that Social Media will this coming election pay a more crucial role than before with regard to shaping public opinion and winning support of the masses.
A couple of things set Kenya apart in comparison to other African countries especially with regard to active use of social media. Though we lag behind 5 other African Countries in terms of the number of people with a presence on Facebook and maybe twitter as well, we rival all of these countries in terms of usage and articulating issues. Kenya has been responsible for a couple of global trending topics on Twitter without staging a revolution. Kenya has been able to stage quite a number of social media initiated success stories. We are very outspoken on social media and our forums are also some of the most active and politically charged as well.
And while it is evident that Kenyans are not lacking in opinion nor the avenues to express them, the question then is, what kind of political discourse will Kenyans initiate online leading up to the elections next year. So far, I have seen a flurry of hard questions directed at politicians who now have a presence on these social networks and especially the Finance Minister, @ukenyatta. And it will get tougher once campaigns hit off because Kenyans online will start demanding manifesto’s, they will start asking what agenda our politicians have for our country, they will start interrogating past records, and those politicians best placed to provide answers and in a timely manner will win the Twitter and Facebook electorate.
Seeing what social media could do for them, all of the leading presidential candidates now have an official presence at least on Facebook and Twitter. Uhuru Kenyatta, Martha Karua, William Ruto, Raila Odinga, Peter Kenneth, and Kalonzo Musyoka are all present and active. Though most updates on these channels are limited to loose updates on plans and whereabouts, I am confident that this discourse will dramatically change as presidential campaigns gain traction. A number of other politicians are slowly joining these platforms as well so this will not be limited to the presidential candidates but to those vying for Governor and Parliamentary positions as well. Political Parties will not be left out as well.
But in the wake of the post election violence, it will also be imperative that these candidates manage conversations happening in their channels to prevent conversations from degenerating into tribal diatribes. Being a political environment, it is very easy to whip up tribal tensions based on who supports who and this is one of the things that all candidates should guard against and always be on the look out for.
That said, I believe this will be the first social media influenced election in Africa where candidates will be trying to outdo each other not only on the ground but online as well.