The number of internet shutdown occurrences in Africa during the election period is on the rise and Kenya could be joining the list, going by mixed signals from government officials. On Monday, Hon. Francis Ole Kaparo, the Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said they are already working with the Communications Authority to identify possible threats posed by social media platforms, besides cracking down on irresponsible users.
There is a real concern of Internet Shutdowns during this election period (either complete or partial). There seems to be double speak from the government (the Cabinet Secretary and Communications Authority of Kenya giving contradicting statements). The basis of the shutdown could be brought about by public order justification for instance: to maintain public order as well as initiatives such as National Cohesion and Integration Commission’s gadgets to monitor hate mongers.
During a forum on election preparedness, Kaparo said that if it is necessary for the internet to be shut down then it would be. The forum brought together police chiefs, judiciary officials, the NCIC and the Communication Authority.
Fearing a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence, the move is aimed at preventing a repeat of the violence, which was largely blamed on incitement including on social media.
However, the Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi, assured that the internet will not be closed, but urged users to be responsible at all times.
“You cannot hide anywhere even on social media, without us physically tracing where you are. We have that capability and we are not unfortunately thinking of doing what people have been going around saying that we shall shut off the internet. We are unlikely to do that and we are going to make sure that the internet is up and running for Kenyans to exercise information but don’t misuse it as a platform to convey your own results,” he said.
The acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi also assured that the ministry has prepared a national security plan to aid security forces in providing security before, during and after the General Election.
Dr. Matiangi said “We are not going to negotiate the stability of the country. We are not going to negotiate the peace that we need to conduct these elections. Action will be taken and who whoever commits a crime regardless of their level in this society will be apprehended and dealt with firmly.”