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Kenya's war against militants fires up tweets

Friday November 4 2011

Military Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir's official twitter account.

Photo/TWITTER/COURTESY Military Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir's official twitter account. 

By NATION CORRESPONDENT

The war on Al-Shabaab is being fought on land, the air, the sea and now there is a fourth front – the Internet.

In what may be a social media-first, Kenya’s Defence Forces has been tweeting advance warnings of attacks and regular updates on Operation Linda Nchi going on in Somalia.

Military Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir set up an official twitter account, @MajorEChirchir, on October 27, 2011 to respond to numerous queries from journalists and other members of the public concerning the war on Al-Shabaab.

Overwhelmed by the calls

He said he set up the account because he was overwhelmed by the calls.

“Good to be here to give you the right and official information,” Major Chirchir wrote on his first tweet.

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Since then, Major Chirchir has been dealing with numerous media requests via twitter, confirming to the media the reports from the field and updating on all aspects of the military operation.

He also takes time out to salute Kenyan media and social media users for their support through prayers, criticism and opinion.

The twitter account has been operational for only one week but so far it has over 3,600 followers. Based on their comments, the followers seem to be happy with the continuous updates.

Questions have, however, been raised on the wisdom of using a social networking site to relay official and strategic military information.

“Sometimes I wonder if Major Chirchir’s superiors approve of what he is doing on twitter,” said Ernest Waititu, a Nairobi-based journalist.

This issue attracted public debate early this week after the military spokesman tweeted concerning eminent attacks on Al-Shabaab strongholds in Somalia.

Conveyed via Twitter

“#Operationlindanchi: Baidoa, Baadheere, Bay dhabo, Dinsur, Afgooye, Bwale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayo and Afmadhow will be under attack continuously,” read the November 1 tweet.

This message was immediately picked up and reported by all major regional and international media stations. The BBC particularly kept insisting that the message was conveyed via Twitter.

The militants are also not left behind as they are also using the Internet to advance their propaganda.

“The Al-Shabaab Mujahedeen will defend Somalia and put Kenya into an endless war.

“We will defeat you like other major countries that have suffered when they attacked Somalia, you will see the consequences,” the group warned through a statement on an Islamist web site.