Kenyatta loses online support after attack on Judiciary

15 September 2017

Internet

According to the latest research from opinion mining company, BrandsEye, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lost a significant number of supporters online following his verbal attack on the country's judiciary.

The incumbent leader called the country's judges "wakora" – meaning crooks or thugs, while addressing newly elected Jubilee alliance candidates on 2 September at State House in Nairobi.

Kenyatta was responding to the Supreme Court's 1 September decision to reschedule the country's controversial annual election to 60 days from the day.

BrandsEye's research, which ran between 28 August and 4 September, looked at online conversation from 150 000 Kenyans in order to evaluate public sentiment towards Uhuru Kenyatta and political rival, Raila Odinga.

The findings revealed that Kenyatta's remarks led to a drop of 13% in online support, significantly down from the figure of +14% he had on 31 August upon conclusion of the Supreme Court investigation into the election.

However, a leaked memo from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) later revealed that technology was subverted during the 8 August general election, leading to the official results being nullified by the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court's decision was positively received by Kenyans who viewed the announcement to suspend the result as a triumph for democracy and the rule of law," notes BrandsEye.

According to the company, Odinga has managed to consistently stay above the negative threshold. Online support for Odinga peaked on 1 September to 14% when the election result was annulled, while Kenyatta's dropped to 1%.

Threat to presidency

BrandsEye analysed 443,000 mentions from 173,000 Kenyans discussing the election in the week leading up to the elections (1 – 6 August).

Based on the data, the company predicted that Kenyatta was under threat to lose the presidency.

Prior to the Court's intervention, the data shows that there were 12 937 mentions pertaining to vote rigging and fraud on 9 August, the day after the election. "This points to some concern from voters about the fairness of the election." Of those 12 937 mentions, 61% referenced Odinga's claim that the election system was hacked.

Prior to the election results being announced on 11 August, Kenyan social media signalled that fraud had played a role in the voting process.

The management of ICT infrastructure during the period leading to the elections had been of particular concern due to the increased use of digital means of communication, as well as the growing impact of fake news spread through the internet among other issues.

Despite these concerns, the government chose freedom of expression over shutting down the country's internet during the period, a decision which was applauded by digital rights organisation, Access Now.

Other controversy was sparked by the death of IEBC ICT manager Chris Musando who was found dead a short while before the election.

After the election, presidential candidate Odinga controversially claimed that IEBC systems had been manipulated to give Kenyatta a lead, saying hackers had used Musando's identity to manipulate the results. "This is why they assassinated him," he claimed.

Source: ITWeb