As political parties in Kenya start their nominations to pick candidates for various seats ahead of the August elections, Kenyans on Thursday woke up to the reality of fake news as the Orange Democratic Movement started its primaries.
In recent electoral contests in various countries, most fake news has been broadcast using the Internet.
But in Busia on Thursday, its propagators resorted to the trusted old medium, a daily newspaper that voters are used to.
Residents of the county in western Kenya woke up to find leaflets showing a fake Daily Nation front page announcing that one of the main candidates in the ODM primaries, Paul Otuoma, had defected to the Jubilee Party.
In a region politically dominated by the opposition party ODM, the fake news was damaging to Dr Otuoma, coming on the day voters were to decide who between him and Governor Sospeter Ojaamong would carry the party’s ticket in the August 8 elections.
Dr Otuoma is seeking to unseat Mr Ojaamong and clinching the ODM ticket would virtually guarantee him the job.
Speaking on live television Thursday morning as he went to cast his vote in the primaries, Mr Ojaamong appeared to reinforce the fake news about his opponent by saying that it was true Dr Otuoma had defected.
Fake news in Kenya is mostly broadcast using WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, platforms that are easily accessible on smartphones, which have become more accessible and cheaper.
There have also been websites and web pages coming up with the sort of stories that have all appearances of legitimate news that became a phenomenon in the United States in campaigns for the elections won by Donald Trump in November 2016.
Buzzfeed reported in November 2016 that at least 140 websites on US politics had been set up in Veles, a town in Macedonia, where young people with only an interest in the money they would make from advertisements on their sites put out fake stories by the day.
By relying on traditional, trusted media, the propagators of the fake news in Busia would be looking for the same effect fake news had in parts of the US, a short-term impact that would have voters change their mind on some candidates or parties, or not vote at all.
This is not the first time that politicians have resorted to such unfair tackles.
In the campaigns leading to the 2013 elections in Kenya, a female candidate in Kandara, Murang’a County, had her name branded on condoms.
But this latest incident in Busia is certainly the first time a trusted mainstream newspaper is being used to fool voters in a political contest.