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Kenyans promised by Telecommunications Regulator internet will not be shut down during elections

by Milicent Atieno
kenya elections shut down internet

Come August 8th, Kenyans will be at the polls voting for their next government. Many experts view this election in some ways similar to that of 2007; too close to call and between an incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The incumbent is running for his second term, while Odinga, it is said this will be his final bid for the presidency.

For both gentlemen, the stakes are high, and each feels they must pull their best shot to secure the seat. It would be correct to say that their supporters are sharply divided and strongly polarized along ethnicity.

Kenya faced a dark moment in few weeks following the 2007 general elections. One community attacked the other, and the other community launched a retaliatory attack. One thing led to another, and the country was on the brink of civil war; some 1,000 Kenyans lost their lives in the inter-communities wars that ensued shortly after the 2007 elections.

This year’s election is unique in the sense we are living in a world of social media. For news to travel far and wide, you no longer need the mainstream media. That means government’s effort to monitor and control any communal clashes is much harder as they do not exactly have control over social media.

We have seen some African governments such as Burundi and Uganda shut the internet entirely to control social media. This move could be used to stop propaganda and hate speech in as much as it can be used by the government to muzzle freedom of speech or contain information it does not want the public to know.

That said, there were fears in Kenya that the wing of government responsible for telecommunication regulation will shut down the internet in the forthcoming August 8th general election. The regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has come out to allay these fears by categorically stating it has no plans of shutting down the internet during this electioneering period. The CA made this announcement via social media (Twitter).

Well, as much as that is good news, the CA also issued a disclaimer warning any site spreading false information will be shut down. The CA went ahead to urge Kenyans to use social media “responsibly.”

The news that the CA is not planning to shut down the internet gives mix reactions. Just recently, news broke out that the agency has spent close to Ksh 600 million on a device to monitor people’s calls, texts, and even social media. Although the same agency came out to refute the claims it acquired the technology to monitor people’s calls.

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