14 January, 2012

Kenya Defense Forces and Al Shabaab Twitter Wars

Here is a reprint of an article i have written on GlobalVoices Online regarding propaganda and social media wars between Kenya's Armed Defense Forces(KDF) and Al Shabaab especially with reference to a recent Twitter spat that resulted in a retraction by the Kenya Military official spokes person Major E Chepchirchir.

Kenya's military incursion into Somalia against the militant group Al Shabaab dubbed "Operation Linda Nchi" (Swahili for "Operation Defend the Country") has turned into Twitter war. This came after the official military spokesperson Major E ChirChir going by the Twitter handle  @MajorEChirchir posted old photos claiming that a Kenyan Al Shabaab recruit had been stoned to death recently by the group members because of "a difference of opinion". Image of the now deleted tweet can be seen at this here

It later became apparent that the photos were actually taken by a Somalian journalist in 2009 and does not even feature a Kenyan Al Shabab recruit. The Kenyan military spokesperson has displayed a sense of responsibility by acknowledging responsibility and stating in one tweet:

@MajorEChirchir: #PicturePosting I take responsibility for posting an old photo, but execution did happen on Tuesday. Friday execution likely.

Reacting to @MajorEChirchir's tweets, @SelfMadeAbdi asks:

"@SelfMadeAbdi: Are we suppose to believe u now?"

@Dannmanufc writes:

" @Dannmanufc: loosing trust of your updates"

@kithembe says:

"@kithembe: @MajorEChirchir  #PicturePosting  it is sad but stop posting old pictures."

His post has raised furor online with a number of Twitter users venting their anger, distrust and opinions on the issue under the hashtag #PicturePosting. Tweep @mamayaimani writes:

"@MajorEChirchir  #PicturePosting  You do realise what his does to your credibility, don't you? You see what it does for the other side?"

Twitter user @geoffreyork blasts @MajorEChirchir by revealing:
" @geoffreyork: Here are the 2009 photos from a British newspaper: http://bit.ly/yDYRn4 Compare them to Major C's tweeted photos. Identical. "

The Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Twitter page, @HMSpress, took a few quips at the Kenya Defence Forces stating:

"@HMSpress: For those interested: the incident took place in 2009, the man wasn’t #Kenyan, it wasn’t in Kismayo, and it wasn’t HSM http://www.dhanbaal.com/main/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=272

@HMSpress: They seem unsophisticated, even in their propaganda campaign. A simple Google search would have saved them such an embarrassment

Kenyans and other interested persons responded to the whole fiasco and here is a sample of their tweets:

Tech Blogger @RobertAlai comments:
@RobertAlai: @MajorEChirchir we are waiting for your answers. You tried to fool us. We need reality not faked scenes

Okwaroh states:
@Okwaroh: @MajorEChirchir and to what extent should we tolerate your 'omissions'. This raises loads of questions about the credibility of your WORD

Responding to the misleading photos, one Kenyan Twitter user, @Jkisioh, coins a new terms “Twicide” and asks:

@JKisioh: Has @MajorEChirchir committed twicide?

The Kenyan military spokesperson may have thought that the tweet would be easily consumed by unsuspecting netizens and believed as gospel truth. The veracity of his statements are not only being put to test by the Al Shabaab and its sympathizers but also by Kenyan citizens as "Tweet war" and social media warfare continue.

The Kenyan capital, Nairobi, saw two deadly grenade attack incidents linked to Al Shabaab last year: one at a popular entertainment club and the other at a crowded bus stop in downtown Nairobi.

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