President needs to stop the social media circus

Friday March 22 2019

 

NJOKI CHEGE
By NJOKI CHEGE
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As I write this, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s official Twitter account is suspended.

The suspension saw Kenyans on social media treated to a dramatic turn of events that involved the President and his social media accounts.

On Friday morning, the President’s Twitter account posted a rather interesting tweet: “If you are corrupt, we will fight you. You can be my brother or my sister or my closest political ally but if you are corrupt, we will fight you. I won’t be clouded by ethnicity or status in my quest to leave behind a united nation and I will continue championing Kenya’s unity.”

DELETED TWEET

These were the words of a furious Mr Kenyatta who was then in Namibia to attend its 29th independence celebrations.

Moments later, the tweet, which seemed to attack his deputy William Ruto was deleted. But that was not enough. The President’s Twitter account was suspended. Twitter suspends a user’s account because the account is suspected to have violated rules.

According to the official Twitter Help Centre, for your account to be suspended, several things might have happened. First, it could be the misuse of the account — such as spamming or being “just plain fake”. Secondly, it could be suspended if Twitter suspects that the account has been compromised or hacked. Lastly, if the Twitter account is sending out abusive messages. Unsuspending your account is a straightforward process that involves confirming your e-mail address and providing your phone number after which you follow a few instructions. But that is not the point.

We don’t know why the President’s Twitter account was suspended. Mr Nzioka Waita, the Chief of Staff at State House, sent out a rather rushed tweet.

He said; “On account of unauthorised access to the official social media handles of H.E. the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyata. All official social media handles for the President have been temporarily suspended to allow for the necessary remedial measures to be undertaken.”

TONNE OF INSULTS

This week, Kenyans online nearly lynched “digital strategist” Dennis Itumbi for publishing false information about the deputy president’s spouse, Mama Rachel Ruto. In the tweet, Itumbi said that Mama Rachel Ruto had visited Turkana to donate food to Kenyans facing hunger. Problem is, nothing of the sort happened.

Further, Itumbi used an old picture in which Mrs Ruto is seen in the photograph donating a box of detergent, and not food. Also, if you are a government operative, you might want to ask, “What drought?”

Itumbi deleted the tweet, apologised, got a tonne of insults and has since moved on to more important things.

In December 2017, the official Twitter account for the now disbanded “Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU)” posted an abusive tweet to Lawyer Donald Kipkorir saying; “Well, #SlayQueenLawyer ama ni #SocialiteLawyer got his match”. Turns out, it was Itumbi retorting to Lawyer Kipkorir, only he forgot he was not using one of his many accounts, but the official account for the presidential communication.

As usual, the PSCU deleted the tweet, apologised and were rightly disbanded.

And now this.

CRINGEWORTHY

It is time to talk about the hot mess that is the presidential digital communication unit. It is a cacophony of confusion, gaffes, mishaps and a source of ridicule to a President trying hard to leave a legacy. Before this, there were several parallel Twitter accounts all claiming to speak on behalf of the President including; NexusKE, PSCUDiaspora, PSCU Digital and PresidentKE. When the presidential communication team is not confusing Kenyans with a litany of social media accounts, it is busy being petty and “unfollowing” the deputy president on Twitter and being misused to settle scores with perceived rivals.

Of the many things that Mr Kenyatta has got utterly wrong, his social media and digital communication team is the most conspicuous.

It is worse in this era of the Internet where every embarrassing blunder leaves a cringeworthy digital trail that leads back to a team of incompetent and overconfident bozos like Dennis Itumbi.

I know social media and digital communication can be challenging to leaders of a certain age, but I think it is time for Mr Kenyatta to take his social media and digital media with a little more seriousness.

Mr Kenyatta needs to end the digital circus and if the President is unable to tweet for himself, then he should use our taxes to, for once, get professionals to handle his digital communication.

Dear Mr President, for once, let us have an adult running your social media and digital communication.

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