In an already very tense climate due to the fear of possible clashes because of these elections, and in the context of the internal crisis of the two coalitions that will face each other this summer in August, another battle is being fought on the Internet. The – now famous – fight against disinformation and poisoning the wells. For weeks, fake news has been circulating about the two leading candidates in the polls, Raila Odinga and William Ruto. Since the two candidates chose their deputies over the past weeks, the latter have also become the protagonists of this fake news.
As reported by the BBC, which tried to map the main fake news, the most recurrent theme concerns alleged endorsements of presidential candidates.
A very famous video is the one that would depict the alleged endorsement of the former President of the United States of America, Barak Obama, revealing a painting of William Ruto. A fake, this one, based on a video of the former president at the Smithsonian in Washington in 2018.
The other front would have put words in the mouth of Ruto’s vice presidential candidate, Rigathi Gachagua, who allegedly said he wanted to dismantle Safaricom (Kenya’s main telecommunications company) and distribute the money to the people as an election bounty. On this fake news would then arise another one – with a Matrioska effect – where Safaricom itself would distance itself and condemn Gachagua’s phrases, also proving to be fake news.
As is typical in any country, misleading or even false information also came from the political front. One senator reportedly tweeted that current President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is constitutionally barred from contesting elections again because he has already served two terms, the limit imposed by the constitution, would nevertheless be eligible for the office of vice president. This is because Article 137(1) of the Constitution of Kenya says nothing about the office of vice-president. The article that does talk about it, however, is there, and it is 148(1) which explicitly says that the vice president, predictably, must also be eligible for the office of president itself.
Kenya is also experiencing the great evil suffered by the world’s democracies in the digital age, post-truth. The country has already suffered in the past from heightened clashes following elections, and the well poisoners, with their fake news, could have the effect of radicalising these sentiments.