Keyboard Warriors

Greetings, friends:

I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe at this time. This week Kenyans online showed up in their best way with their push urging the International Monetary Fund to cancel a Ksh 255 billion loan to Kenya. The petition circulating has over 232,000 signatures by the time I was writing this on Friday 9th April (you can sign it here). Even more ingenious was how Kenyans flooded a live event on the IMF’s Facebook page early in the week, with hundreds of comments urging the IMF to stop loaning Kenya money as previous loans have been stolen or used inappropriately by the political elite and ultimately had not benefited Kenyans. There is also the fear that more loans would inevitably lead to more taxation and more corruption.

Throughout the week, Kenyans have been parked on the IMF’s Facebook page; every post is attracting dozens if not hundreds of comments under the hashtag #StopLoaningKenya. Today I discovered that the IMF’s app on Google Play Store is even receiving one star ratings from Kenyans along with even more comments and negative ratings, a move reminiscent of a similar incident with TikTok in India where the app received more than four million negative comments and reviews in a matter of days in May 2020 – bringing down its rating on Google Play Store from 4.5 (out of 5) to just 1.

The revolution will be digitized, and this decentralized yet organically coordinated campaign is modest but concrete pushback for the claim that Kenyans are apathetic or “not angry enough” with the political dysfunction that they are forced to survive. Even if this whole campaign does not move the Kenyan government or the IMF, folks are choosing ways to express their frustration, their ideals and yes – their anger, in ways that keep them physically safe for the most part, as opposed to in the line of fire for bullets, water cannons and dogs. 

I say “for the most part” because as we’ve seen time and again, even digital satire can land one in police custody, as in the case with Edwin Mutemi wa Kiama this week. I need to think more about what it means that that particular image got him in trouble (I don’t want to link it here, but you can search for it on Twitter). Why would “the following person is not authorized to transact on behalf of this republic” attract more ire and more sanction than all other complaints that Kenyans have had throughout this week? Does it have something to do with a similar cartoon by Gado published nineteen years ago, portraying the then President as yet another unfortunate soul who’d been forcefully parted with his employment?

In the meantime, here’s:

  • What We’re Reading: Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Fall of WeWork by Reeves Weideman. The Sunday Times described it this way: ‘This absorbing book exposes the sheer madness of WeWork: not just its founder Adam Neumann’s extreme hubris, but why so many wiser minds bought into the fairytale.’ 
  • What We’re Watching: Fake Famous, a HBO documentary streaming on Showmax following three nobodies who are trying to become social-media famous, which involves buying followers and faking a luxurious lifestyle – with mixed results for the three. 
  • What We’re Listening To: KiswaHealing, a new hip hop album by Kitu Sewer x Maovete. It’s been years since Kitu Sewer released fresh material, and this album is as sharp as ever. The song Kun Faya Kun, especially struck me.

Take care and stay safe.

Yours, as always,

Christine Mungai | Curator, Baraza Media Lab


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