BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

How technology helped in Kenyan poll – Citizens

Some citizens of Kenya have attributed the success of the country’s general election to the employment of technology by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the role of social media in the electoral process, although the outcome of the poll is currently being challenged.

Speaking in different interviews with BusinessDay, three illustrious citizens of Kenya, Charles Kanjama; a senior counsel and chairman at Law Society of Kenya, Nairobi branch; Rodney Amollo, an associate at Rachier & Amollo Advocates LLP; and Maryanne Njeri, a public relations expert, said both the level of sensitisation on social media and the handling of the results were helped by technology.

Njeri said: “First of all, I’m honestly really proud of us. I found it interesting when I was looking on Twitter and I saw a lot of comments from a lot of African countries like ‘wow, Kenya still has internet going on during elections.’ Because the website was live so we could watch some of the counting and everything; a lot of it was live. When we were going to vote in stations, we had an iPad, everything was registered online.

“You just pull out your identity card, they see your face and you go and do your thing. Also, there’s more openness in terms of information and access. I think we have come to a different stage of maturity and democracy. We don’t even have the military on the road. Everything was fine, people actually driving around. So, I think we need to progress from that, where we’ve reached we cannot go back.”

In his assessment, Amollo said: “With respect to the general election in Kenya, I will say that social media has played a very great role in terms of sensitisation and in terms of influencing the general mood of the public. And I will say that platforms like Facebook and Instagram have actually played a significant role in terms of subjecting whatever one posts through vetting or rather a verification process whereby whenever one asserts a particular position, you find that the same is flagged and then a disclaimer is issued that this particular post cannot be deemed to be accurate and truthful.

“And I will also say that, unlike the previous elections, this time I have not seen many posts regarding incitement; perhaps, they have been reported, but I may not know. But generally, social media is not awash with posts regarding incitements or ethnic hatred as has been the case before.”

Read also: From Nairobi to Abuja: Kenyan election as a mirror for Nigeria

Kanjama said although being popular on social media does not translate to electoral victory in Kenya, it has nonetheless become a veritable tool in the hands of politicians and their supporters.

He said: “In Kenya, social media is quite important as an avenue for political discussion and each of the major political parties has bloggers or social media warriors who keep posting in favour of their different parties. In past elections, there was a lot of hateful language or what you call ‘hate speech’ from ordinary Kenyans attacking the candidates of the other side.

“Sometimes, attacking the groups that vote for the other side because in many parts of Africa, including Kenya, our elections tend to have an ethnic dimension; ethnic and political seem to be connected quite a bit, and this time around even though you still had the usual social media engagement and some negative comments about other people or supporters, generally, the quality of the conversation was not as hateful as in the previous elections.”

Despite the seemingly transparent election, the senior counsel hinted that there could be legal battles as Raila Odinga, one of the contestants, had given indication he was going to court.

“We fully expect court cases to be filed. Raila Odinga who was declared a second, has addressed the press this (Tuesday) afternoon, and he said he disagreed with the results, that they were null and void and that he’s going to proceed to court to challenge the outcome,” he said.

On the allegation of electoral malfeasance that greeted the announcement of William Ruto as winner of the election, Njeri said the chairman of IEBC should be blamed.

She said: “I’ll be honest, I do not know, but I feel the chairman of the Electoral board commission dishonoured the oath he took to this country, he went against his oath. Number one, of all the registered voters and all those who voted, I feel like we don’t know the real number. Secondly, they’ve given us a number which is roughly 14 million people, but they’ve not told us how many votes were spoiled.

“They have not told us how many registered voters did not vote but yes, so there’s data we are missing. Thirdly, under the Constitution, it says there should be a majority. There were Commissioners who refused. So, he is supposed to read the results that have been agreed upon by that committee but he chose to read what he felt served his purpose or whoever’s purpose. So, whether the government manipulates you or the position, he had an oath he took to this country. He has disrespected this oath and disrespected the country.”

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