A casual look of the Kenya Defence Forces’ Twitter account reveals a sharp shift in the communication strategy between the time its troops were attacked in El-Adde in January last year and when they were attacked again on Friday.
On January 15, 2016 when more than 100 soldiers were killed by Al-Shabaab in a dawn ambush, the KDF’s Twitter page, which has been up since 2012, was dead silent.
The first tweet of 2016 was made on April 13 after an unexplained 22-month period of inactivity.
But on Friday between 11.20 am and 8.32 pm, the account was updated seven times, with two press statements in between, in what appeared to be a tactical shift to counter the online propaganda machinery by the terrorists who must have realised KDF’s lethargy in relaying information on such matters.
KDF’s first tweet was, however, a latecomer in the social media space where information from any quarters can be taken to be gospel truth.
By the time the first tweet from the army came, saying that its soldiers had repulsed the attack and that the Kulbiyow camp had not been overrun, there were already posts from various quarters purporting to give on-the-ground information on what had transpired, the number of KDF casualties, the property KDF lost among other information.
Some Twitter users claiming to be posting from Somalia, for example, had been active from as early as 6.44 am on Friday, giving what appeared to be a blow-by-blow account of the goings-on in Kulbiyow.
As is likely to happen with such occurrences, photos were circulating online purporting to show the casualties of the attack.
However, some of the images were from past incidents.
“It is important to note that the information being peddled by terrorists on social media is false and part of their propaganda,” said a statement from the Defence Ministry that was uploaded on the KDF account at 11.38 am.
While KDF shunned social media during the El-Adde attack, instead opting for press statements, it appears that this year they understood the role of the social media.