Category Archives: Media

Kenya – the clear threat of election violence

The Conversation

Voters queue to cast their ballots during presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

In the last few weeks Kenya has seen an increase in intra-party political violence following the start of its political party primaries that began on April 13th and are scheduled to run for two weeks.

The primaries are “mini-polls” held by political parties to choose which candidates will vie for seats in the general election that will be held on August 8th.

The focus has been on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) which was the first party to begin the nomination process. The ODM was formed in 2007 and is one of Kenya’s main political parties.

Since the start of the ODM primaries chaos has continued to mar the process. The worst cases of political violence were witnessed in Migori in south-western Kenya and Ruaraka in Nairobi. In both cases violence between rival camps led to injuries.

The Busia County primaries, which were the first to take place, also ended in chaos. Busia is a county in western Kenya on the border with Uganda.

The primaries are ongoing and continue to be characterised by palpable tension.

A storm has also been gathering within the ruling Jubilee Party, which began its nominations on Friday last week. Its preparations have also been characterised by internal party tensions.

Recently in Kirinyaga County in central Kenya supporters of two contenders for the gubernatorial seat clashed violently at a prayer rally. That must have been a foretaste of things to come because the first day of the Jubilee primaries was so disorganised that the party announced a nationwide postponement of the nomination exercise.

Kenya’s elections laws require all political parties to undertake internal party primary elections. But it’s a requirement they’d rather not fulfil.

The truth is that Kenya’s political parties coalesce around individuals and ethnic communities rather than ideology. This has made the running of party primaries an arduous task as dejected aspirants often troop to rival political formations after losing in a primary.

This means that parties have to contend with the nightmare of shifting alliances close to the general election.

Rivalry behind the chaos

Party-primary violence has been intense in regions where the main political parties command a strong following. Aspirants who are nominated in their party strongholds have a much better chance of winning. This means that the battle for the nominations is fierce and aspirants often resort to violence against their opponents.

Despite having disciplinary mechanisms the main political parties have failed to rein in those instigating chaos. They usually impose fines on offenders instead of taking more more drastic measures such as a suspension or expulsion.

The fact that most politicians can easily raise the fines has bred a culture of impunity. This has resulted in perennial acts of violence during election cycles.

If the violence isn’t contained it could be a harbinger of things to come when Kenyans go to the polls in August. And while the recent conflict has been a wake up call, it has not come as a surprise given Kenya’s history of election violence.

Since the return of multiparty politics, the country has repeatedly witnessed ethnic tension and violence around election time. Only the 2013 polls stand out as being relatively peaceful.

Deeper issues

The violence during and around election time is an indicator of underlying socioeconomic and political issues such as land injustices, marginalisation and disenfranchisement.

These issues were set out in the 2013 Truth Justice and Reconciliation Report, which was written in response to the post-election violence of 2007-2008. Its recommendations have never been implemented.

The 2007-2008 trajectory of ethnic animosity – which led to 1,133 deaths and 600 000 people rendered homeless – underscores the use of disputed elections to bring underlying issues to the fore.

Although the next election in 2013 was relatively peaceful ethnic tensions have continued to build up across the country. The theatre for this vicious ethnic driven political intolerance has mostly been on social media platforms which are dominated by young Kenyans.

The flame that has been fanned on social media since the 2013 polls is growing into a fire as politicians hit the campaign trail. While leaders engage in polarising rhetoric, it’s the youth who become either perpetrators or victims of the political violence.

There are more young people in Kenya than any other demographic cohort. They are also the most disenfranchised which makes them vulnerable to being recruited as perpetrators of violence. Widespread unemployment of 22% is also a contributory factor to young people joining campaign teams as vigilantes, militias or agents.

The making of a peaceful election

As Kenya’s general election approaches, the US and UK governments have raised the alarm over the potential for violence.

The National Democratic Institute has also warned about the likelihood of violence before, during, or after the elections. The institute is an international nongovernmental organisation whose primary task is to advance democratic principles and good governance. In Kenya it’s work has mainly involved strengthening electoral and political processes.

The institute has also given a raft of recommendations on how to avoid election-related violence.

But in the end only Kenyans can put a stop to ethno-political violence.

In the medium to longer term one way they could do this would be by implementing the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report.

Another would be to build programmatic political parties that are rooted in ideology rather than ethnicity.

In the short term the institutions mandated to ensure peaceful electioneering must actively discourage violence. For example the National Cohesion and Integration Commission must fulfil its mandate. The commission is a statutory body established against the backdrop of a reconciliation pact agreed after the 2007-2008 post–election violence. It’s aim is to support sustainable peaceful coexistence among Kenyans.

In addition, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has a crucial role in mitigating political violence by conducting free and fair elections. The commission is legally mandated to conduct primary elections for political parties.

But some stakeholders have opposed its involvement in party affairs citing the principle of neutrality. In my opinion, the commission should play an advisory and logistical role to ensure free, fair, and peaceful primary elections in the run-up to the general election in August.

Kenya – bishop tells politicians to stop using funerals for campaigning

Daily Nation

Bishop stops Governor Lusaka, MPs from addressing mourners

Tuesday April 18 2017
Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula (in black T-Shirt) pleads with ACK Bishop Robert Magina of Nambale to allow leaders and politicians at his mother burial to address mourners. The clergyman had insisted no politician would be allowed to speak. PHOTO | TITUS OTEBA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula (in black T-shirt) pleads with ACK Bishop Robert Magina of the Nambale Diocese to allow leaders and politicians at his mother’s burial to address mourners. The cleric had insisted no politician would be allowed to speak. PHOTO | TITUS OTEBA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By TITUS OTEBA
More by this Author

A bishop in Bungoma has stopped a governor and other politicians from campaigning during the burial of the mother of Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula.

Drama started when the politicians tried to ignore a prior warning by Bishop Robert Magina of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Nambale Diocese, who insisted that he would not allow anyone to make the burial a campaign event.

The politicians present were Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka, Woman Representative Reginalda Wanyonyi, MPs Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Benson Momanyi (Borabu) and nominated MP Patrick Wangamati.

Others were Bungoma gubernatorial aspirant Wycliffe Wangamati, senatorial aspirants Juma Mukhwana and David Makali and woman rep aspirant Maria Nato.

The cleric told them to organise their own campaign meetings instead of taking advantage of sombre occasions to push their political agenda.

“I will not grant any chance to politicians to politicise this event. We want to give Mama Nasike a proper send-off.

“She was one of our great believers who participated in creating many churches around Nambale diocese,” said the Bishop.

NO POLITICS

The bishop made it clear that he would not tolerate any diversion to politics.

“Politicians should organise their own meetings, where they can politick and do their other stuff, but we can’t allow that [at] this burial ceremony,” he said to the shock of the politicians present.

When Mr Wanyama, the Webuye West MP, attempted to take over the programme and invite his colleagues to speak, the bishop grabbed the microphone from him and asked the mourners to proceed to the graveside.

Efforts by other politicians present to convince him to allow them to speak bore no fruit.

Mr Otsiula pleaded that the bishop allow the politicians only 10 minutes to speak but to no avail.

MP PLEADS

“Bishop, please grant us 10 minutes to address them. We should respect the governor and other guests who have come to mourn with us,” begged Mr Otsiula.

The cleric relented but said he would not extend the time by even a minute.

Contacted for comment later, Mr Otsiula said it was sad that the cleric almost ruined his mother’s burial by denying leaders and politicians a chance to speak yet he (Mr Otsiula) was one of them.

“As a family we are sad and disappointed that he hadn’t come to mourn with us but to [disturb] our peace. We will find a place where we can worship peacefully and carry out our politics without hindrance,” said Mr Otsiula.

John Wekesa, an Anglican who attended the burial, said the bishop erred by trying to prevent the politicians and leaders from addressing the mourners.

“He is dictating to Christians through unorthodox and unchristian ways. We better move to Bungoma Diocese, where we can find peace,” he warned.

Kenya – fake news and the elections

Daily Nation

Be warned, it is the season of fake news

Busia Governor aspirant Paul Otuoma displays the fake Daily Nation newspaper

Busia Governor aspirant Paul Otuoma displays the fake Daily Nation newspaper that was circulating in the county on April 13, 2017 during the ODM nominations. Such rumours are a problem because, while some may be true, many others are false. PHOTO | GAITANOH PESA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GABRIELLE LYNCH

The problem of ‘fake news’ hit the headlines this week after leaflets, posters and a mock front page of the Daily Nation circulated in Busia County.

The documents claimed that Dr Paul Otuoma — who is seeking the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket for governor — had defected to Jubilee.

Otuoma claimed that his political opponents had also told voters in his strongholds that the ODM party primaries had been cancelled so as to ensure a low turnout.

In response, the sitting governor, Sospeter Ojaamong, distanced himself from the rumours and propaganda, but insisted that Otuoma had in fact defected.

NEW TECHNOLOGY
Such rumours are a problem because, while some may be true, many others are false.

Nevertheless, many ordinary citizens believe what they read and hear, especially when it comes from sources that they trust.

These include friends and families, but also co-ethnics and those whose reports resonate with personal and collective assumptions and fears.

People are also more likely to believe rumours when they are repeated, which makes social media particularly problematic.

Indeed, while fake news is far from a new phenomenon, the use of new technology — from relatively cheap printing services to mobile short messaging service (SMS) and social media – means that it is increasingly easy to spread rumours quickly, cheaply and anonymously.

As the anthropologist Michelle Osborn argues in an article on the 2007/8 post-election violence: “Where rumours were once local, taking time to percolate outwards and onwards to a broader national audience, the use of high-tech communication, such as mobile phones, email, internet websites and weblogs, has transformed the pace and range of rumour. Kenya’s local rumours now go national in minutes”.

This is further exacerbated by the lengths that many aspirants and activists will go to in the context of heightened competition to spread propaganda.

The aim: to weaken their opponents by making them look biased, ill, corrupt, violent or immoral.

BELIEVEABILITY
This is evident from the recent production of the fake front cover of the Nation, but also from interviews with activists in different parts of the country.

In this way, one activist recently explained to me how he and his colleagues had at least six Facebook accounts, each with fake names and pictures, which they used to spread rumours.

The activist went on to note that multiple accounts were helpful because, if someone posted a story and then ‘others’ commented on the same, people were more likely to notice the post and to believe it.

This Machiavellian approach was also evident in the account of another activist who spoke of how, in the last election, he had organised for ‘goons’ dressed in T-shirts associated with his candidate’s main opponent to disrupt a meeting so that residents would believe that the other candidate was pro-violence and untrustworthy.

Such efforts are problematic as they are often believed and shared leading to a situation where many are influenced to make choices that are based on false information and thus not in their best interests.

PUBLIC ANXIETY
It is also a problem as it can fuel public anger and violence.

This was evident during the post-election violence of 2007/8 when, as Osborn notes with respect to Kibra in Nairobi, the use of SMS helped to spread rumours almost instantaneously “contributing to increased anxiety, sometimes leading to panic, and, on occasion, motivating people to action”.

Indeed, while many are not ill intentioned when they spread rumours, but instead simply want to share information and protect loves ones, it is important that people think about what they see, hear, read, and share.

This is particularly important as the elections approach, given that many aspirants and activists will be purposefully trying to spread false information, which others will then share believing (or fearing) it to be true.

In short, people need to be aware of the problem of fake news; to seek alternative sources of information; and, where possible, try to verify the multiple rumours which they are likely to hear in the months ahead.

Gabrielle Lynch, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Warwick (g.lynch@warwick.ac.uk; @GabrielleLynch6)

South Africa – why Bell Pottinger dropped the Guptas

News24

Bell Pottinger dropped Guptas’ Oakbay1 minutes ago

Oakbay chair Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma at a Protea vs India T20 cricket match in Johannesburg in 2012. (Photo: GCIS)

Cape Town – UK-based public relations agency Bell Pottinger defended the Gupta-owned Oakbay for the last time as it announced on Wednesday that it will no longer be working with the company.

“In all our work for Oakbay we have seen no evidence of wrongdoing,” it said in an emailed statement to Fin24.

The controversial Gupta family is accused of having undue influence over President Jacob Zuma. The family is at the centre of allegations of state capture due to their close ties to the president.

South Africa’s top five banks blacklisted the Guptas’ bank accounts and the Office of the Public Protector fingered them in the report, State of Capture.

Bell Pottinger said it was forced to step down as the company’s communications adviser because it has been the subject of a smear campaign, with certain of its partners and staff coming under attack.

“It is therefore with regret that we have suggested to Oakbay, and have mutually agreed with them, that we will step down from our role as communications advisers with immediate effect.”

Bell Pottinger said for the last year it has been working to help Oakbay defend itself from attacks on its reputation, correcting misrepresentations and defending it and its owners from politically motivated attacks.

“In recent times the tactics of Oakbay’s detractors have changed; Bell Pottinger has been targeted and became the story.”

Bell Pottinger cited a report entitled “Bell Pottinger – PR support for the Gupta family”, as part of a campaign it claims to discredit it. The report was released by the South Africa Communist Party on Friday, March 31, according to Bell Pottinger.

“The report was anonymous, gave no sources for its allegations and contained many statements about this firm and our work for Oakbay that were wholly untrue.”

It said since the release of the 21-page report, a concerted social media campaign has been waged against Bell Pottinger, “with personally abusive and threatening comments on social media platforms”.

The report, dated 24 January, claimed that the PR firm employed “a series of underhand tactics” to manipulate public opinion by diverting attention from the Guptas. These included using fake Twitter accounts, bloggers and commentators to stoke racial tensions by fanning the flames of so-called white monopoly capitalism.

The report also implicated President Jacob Zuma. It alleged that the president requested help to protect the reputation of his son, Duduzane, who is in business with the Gupta family; and to create a media environment which ‘would be advantageous’ to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as his chosen successor.

The report further revealed that Bell Pottinger’s decision to work for the Guptas created internal disruptions leading to the departure of senior staff.

In response to this, Bell Pottinger rejected these claims on Wednesday.

“Bell Pottinger has been happy to deny on the record all the allegations made against it, the firm and its partners and staff hold themselves to the highest professional standards,” it said.

“To suggest that we would stoke racial tension in South Africa is both insulting and wrong.”

Bell Pottinger said the unfounded and unsourced report is the latest example of the campaign against it.

“Unfortunately, in this regard, they have had some success and we have to accept that this has compromised our ability to be an effective advocate for our client.”

London protestors had planned to picket outside Bell Pottinger’s office on Saturday over their involvement in South Africa, according to a tweet.

The pressure against Bell Pottinger heightened after Zuma removed Pravin Gordhan as finance minister on March 30.

In September 2016, Fin24 reported how a Bell Pottinger employee sent it a confidential cabinet document to publish as a scoop weeks before it was announced by Minerals Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and which sought to start an inquiry into why the banks shut down the Guptas’ bank accounts.

Oakbay Investments has interests in mining, IT, and media (ANN7 and The New Age) among others. The Guptas and Duduzane Zuma own Tegeta, which bought Optimum Coal Mine from Glencore last year.

South Africa – Zille unrepentant over colonialism “statement of fact”

News24

News24

2017-03-28 18:11

Helen Zille. (File)

Helen Zille. (File)

Cape Town – An unrepentant Helen Zille believes a debate on colonialism should not be shut down.

The Western Cape premier was the last speaker in a snap debate in the provincial legislature over her recent tweets, which were seen to be lauding aspects of colonialism.

Zille is facing an internal party process over the tweets.

In a series of tweets on her way back from Singapore, the premier tweeted about colonialism, and ended off with: “Getting on to an aeroplane now and won’t get on to the wi-fi so that I can cut off those who think every aspect of colonial legacy was bad.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Helen Zille takes on critics in debate over tweets

On Tuesday, the premier bemoaned the reaction to “her statement of fact”.

She said she was glad that her tweets had led to a debate, and again apologised “if anyone genuinely thought I was praising, defending or justifying colonialism”.

She had never supported or justified, praised or promoted colonialism, she said.

Her visit to Singapore and Japan was eye opening, she said.

“It seemed to me that the colonised has overtaken the coloniser on the world stage, and I thought it was worthwhile asking why,” she said.

Religion and colonialism

She said if she were to state that the worldwide legacy of colonialism was causing an average of 3 287 human deaths daily, people would be outraged if anyone suggested the benefits might outweigh the costs.

“I am talking about the motor car. Today in South Africa, this colonial leftover is not only a means of transport, but the ultimate status symbol,” she said.

She also made an example of religion in relation to colonialism.

“To be consistent on the principle, if people believe the price was too high to acknowledge any advantage, then they mustn’t drive a car or visit most houses of religious worship,” she said.

She questioned the “political tsunami” over what she had said about colonialism, when textbooks in schools also talked about the positive effects of the time.

“If people believe that South Africans may say things that others may not, then the police must draw up schedules of what can be said by whom, and make sure this is in line with the Constitution,” she said.

‘You must now resign’

This was impossible and undesirable, Zille continued.

During the debate, the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters called for Zille to resign over her tweets, while the African Christian Democratic Party called for the premier to be forgiven.

The Democratic Alliance focused on the “sins” of the ANC, with MEC Beverly Schafer outlining how President Jacob Zuma and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini had “breached the oath of office”.

She said Zille’s tweets did not amount to a breach of her oath of office.

DA MPL Masizole Mnqasela pulled out files of Zille’s struggle credentials, referring to the premier as “honest, trustworthy, humble, and a humanitarian that has helped countless people”.

The ANC’s Khaya Magaxa said Zille was close to being a raving racist, while the EFF’s Bernard Joseph said it was time for her to do the right thing.

“You must now resign,” he said.

South Africa – Zuma appoints interim SABC board

News24

Zuma appoints interim SABC board

Kaveel Singh, News24

Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma has appointed an interim board for the SABC, the presidency said on Sunday.

The members appointed are Khanyisile Kweyama, John Matisson, Mathatha Tsedu, Febbe Portgieter-Gqubule and Krish Naidoo.

Kweyama and Tsedu was appointed as Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the SABC Board respectively.

Zuma made the appointments in terms of section 15A (3) of the Broadcasting Act (Act 4 of 1999), and on the recommendation of the National Assembly. The interim membership will last six months.

“Millions of South Africans rely on the public broadcaster for news, information and entertainment. We wish Ms Kweyama and her team well as they begin the important task of leading and revitalising one of the most important national resources, the SABC,” said Zuma.

The public broadcaster has not been able to function properly due to several troubling issues.

The former management was accused of unnecessary expenditure, corruption, censorship and other allegations that crippled the organisation.

The Auditor-General’s report last year disclosed irregular expenditure at the SABC.

South Africa – SABC told by regulator to end “censorship”

City Press

SABC ‘censorship’ policy officially outlawed

2017-03-10 12:32

The SABC must revert to its 2004 editorial policy, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has ruled.

Icasa’s council has officially ratified a recommendation made by its complaints and compliance committee after a hearing in December last year.

The SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa had brought the complaint against the SABC’s revised editorial policy of 2015, adopted in January 2016, because of the broadcaster’s decision that it would no longer show footage of the violent protests sweeping the country.

The SABC is obliged to review its editorial policy every five years. The 2016 revision effectively, says SOS, allowed former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to make editorial decisions in newsrooms.

The revisions led to the new editorial guidelines being referred to as a “censorship policy”.

Icasa’s ruling states that the SABC’s policy falls foul of section 6 (6) of the Broadcasting Act No 4 of 1999 which compels the broadcaster to engage with the public about editorial changes and then publish the proposed revisions for public comment.

“We did engage with the public. In 2014, 2015 we did a roadshow across the country,” said SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

At the time, the SABC said they met with 30 organisations and held 17 public hearings.

“The only thing we didn’t do is publish the proposed changes. This will be a matter that the interim board will have to deal with when their term starts. Perhaps all they will want to do is publish the changes, we will see.”

The SOS Coalition released a statement today welcoming the ruling.

“When the SABC last reviewed its editorial policy in 2004, a draft editorial policy was released for public consultation.

“The comments provided in those intensive engagements and submissions were then incorporated into the new revisions of the policy,” said SOS coordinator Duduetsang Makuse.

“The intentional exclusion of public comment [in 2016] allowed the sanctioning of certain amendments, which have had grave implications for the quality of journalism and news coverage at the public broadcaster.”