Kenyan bloggers: Digital activists or deadly propagandists?
By Grace Kerongo
I got in touch with the cream of the Kenyan bloggers and this is what they had to say.
You Missed This: kumekucha.blogspot.com
Of all the controversial blogs, Kumekucha takes the trophy. The blogger behind it couldn’t reveal his name or where he is based for security reasons, but only said, “I earn a living writing for other websites all over the world.”
He went ahead to explain what his blog is about.
“Since inception Kumekucha's main subject has been politics with a bias towards a reform agenda.”
He added, “We have been very fortunate to break numerous stories on Kumekucha. I say "we" because these days it is a team effort. I do it together with a team of dedicated writers spread all over the world on more than three continents.”
Some of their ‘scoops’ include the rape saga involving a famous Kenyan journalist.
“We were also the first to tell the world that Kalonzo Musyoka would be appointed Vice President. We also warned the world about the secret "bedroom swearing in" that was going to happen last year about six hours before it happened.”
He was quick to defend the blog against propaganda claims.
“I must admit that our big problem has been the comments (posted on the blog) from readers … some hate comments published in Kumekucha came from people who were upset, especially after the elections. But don't forget that with such a huge readership Kumekucha tends to mirror exactly what is going on the ground including what people are saying and feeling.”
He clarified that the team of writers (who post articles on the blog) comes from both sides of the political divide as well as very neutral persons who call themselves "horseless".”
At a time when blogs were segmented into two, pro-government and pro-opposition, Kumekucha was seen as staunchly ODM, a claim that was hotly denied.
“We are a pro-reform blog. We usually look like we are leaning towards the political party we think is most likely to deliver change. The truth is, we hold nobody's brief except that of the ordinary folk of
The ride for the Kumekucha blogger has not being smooth. “I receive threats all the time. That is why I take my personal security very seriously.”
On being regulated he said, “Governments are eager to regulate blogs and web sites. In a few years I am sure there will be all sorts of laws. It is never safe to blog from within the borders of one's own country.”
Kenyan Diaspora Pro-democracy Movement: geraldbaraza.blogspot.com
Gerald Baraza is a student and Officer in charge of Special Projects at the
His was the first to post: “
He also claims that he predicted Kalonzo Musyoka’s move to join the government as VP days before Kalonzo accepted the appointment.
Baraza accepted that some bloggers spewed vitriol during the post election period.
“It is very true! Blogs were used to spread propaganda. Some of it is very cheap and misleading.”
As a staunch ODM supporter, Baraza was accused by his blog readers of “spreading hatred”. To this he said, “I stand for justice. I stand for democracy and I stand for the truth. Like any other peace-loving and law-abiding Kenyan, I only spoke out against the election malpractices and those who were behind them. I have a right as a Kenyan to express my opinion and that is what I did.”
Due to his straight shooting and liberal writing, Baraza received threats via email.
“My relatives and friends from
Several of his American friends also advised him to stop using his real name.
Unlike most bloggers, Baraza chose to reveal his identity on the blog because, “I have not committed any crime. I have nothing to hide. If anything, I am aspiring to contest in Nambale in 2012 so I can’t be hiding when I am a potential Member of Parliament.”
Other bloggers’ take on politics and censorship
The kenyanentrepreneur.com focuses on small internet businesses, and frequently writes about business and economics in Africa and
“I was accused of being a counter-propagandist site for the Kibaki government, but I didn't view it that way. I think people on both sides of this crisis were very passionate about the issues and the blogs gave them the space to express those passions in a very real and honest way. This is not propaganda. I was one of the few blogs that took a pro-Kibaki stance early on and I think people who were not used to hearing that side of the story may have taken offense at some of my viewpoints. However, those who were pro-Kibaki appreciated the balance that my blog provided and they gravitated towards it.”
What an African woman thinks
Whatanafricanwomanthinks.blogspot.com was seen by many as a neutral entity, far removed from the sectarian madness that griped the blogosphere. “Political temperatures ran extremely high and there were definitely those who crossed the line,” she says. “I tried to position myself as pro-Kenya, which wasn't easy, I admit.”
Girl in the meadow: sylkwan.blogspot.com
The Displaced Kenyan
Mwangi runs displacedkenyan.com, he is based in
“The blogsphere definitely spread some hate, the place where hate was simply unavoidable was Mashada and Kumekucha. I fully understand why Kobia (Mashada owner) had to shut the place down for a while, it all got a bit too much.”
“There was a beautiful outpouring of love and support from sites such as Ushahidi.com, Mama Mikes, Operation Save Brian, IHaveNoTribe.com amongst others all came out of this tragedy. In addition to that, a lot of bloggers were willing to step up and talk about things like tribalism, class, wealth disparity and other issues that are really at the core of the crisis.”
The rancorous chatter is still going in most blogs, which is made possible by the illusion of an impenetrable alias. One question though: if blogging reveals a blogger’s honest opinion, what does that say about the quality of citizenry in