Kenya’s new fake news bill might be a saviour

Kenya's cyber crime bill may just be what the country needs writes Daniel Kipchumba Ngetich
Kenya's cyber crime bill may just be what the country needs writes Daniel Kipchumba Ngetich

Nairobi – President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill, 2018 and Public Trustee (Amendment) Bill, 2018 this week arousing hope among Kenyans that this will put an end to the propagation of fake news.

The bill spells a sh 5 million fine (USD 50 000) penalty for the propagating of false information electronically.

By Daniel Kipchumba Ngetich

The bills come at a time when Kenyans are grappling with the aspect of false news, which marred the Kenyan social media in last year’s general elections.

Kenyans may never forget the post-election violence that rocked the country immediately after the August 8th 2017 general elections. Gory images rocked social media following the announcement of the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win for the second term, which was later annulled by the high court, spread on Facebook, Whattsap and Instagram pages.

Voice notes depicting police attempts to break into the houses in Kisumu County, Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s stronghold, rocked the media.

Terrified screams of women pleading for help in what was allegedly police and army break inns into their houses spread like bushfire. Piles of photos of dead bodies and of razed houses flashedin all screens.

Voices of children screaming for rescue echoed in all digital gadgets. It was, in essence, one of the scariest times to be a Kenyan, according to social media. Police brutality was seen to be at its peak, at one instance a woman crying that they had chopped off her fingers. In another different clip a woman cries “ nawaskia wako hapa kwa jirani wanavunja mlango’ (I can hear them they are at my neighbor’s house breaking the door) Various Human Rights Organizations issues various reports about the said killings and police harassment in the town.

Many felt that the police were on a revenge mission and were acting on a shot to kill order, claiming they had direct orders from the government to do so. The city residents were popular for taking to the streets every time the opposition “lost” and this was no exception. Mass demonstrations marked the daily activities, with teargascanisters and live bullets being used on the protesters.

It was during this chaos that there emerged claims that the bodies of slain protestors were being dumped into Lake Victoria, which sits in a significant portion of the City. Allegations from activist claimed that police took to this route to avoid being charged for extra judicial killings.

But did the events that were narrated horribly actually happen or were they just a work of fiction?

SamwelOmedo, a member of the fishermen community at Usoma beach of Lake Victoria, where several bodies were allegedly recovered, narrated how they found corpses floating on the massive lake.

“We woke up in the morning as usual and headed to the lake. After a few minutes, we spotted bodies floating on the shores of the lake. On a closer look, we realized that some of them were wrapped in body bags, one white and another yellow, ’’ said Omedo.

He narrated how he informed the area chief of the ordeal, who in turn contacted the area governor Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Nyong’o then allegedly brought with him the boats and the divers from the fisheries department who picked the bodies. On further search, narrated Omedo, they discovered three other bodies near a golf club next to the beach.

“Some of the bodies were badly mutilated and decomposed. From the look, there were some that had injuries that looked like they were inflicted by sharp objects like machete and some were riddled with bullet holes,” he added.

The bodies were taken to the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, hospital morgue.

Arlois Oder, Director Communication and Governance Press Unit Kisumu county narrated how he received a call informing that there was a body floating in the water on that fateful morning.

“What worries me though, is the fact that the police went to the beach and dispersed people gathered around and took the body. This is very suspicious because of earlier incidences where police would shoot protestors and later shred their bodies to remove any evidence of bullets as a cover up for their actions,” he added.

“On 13th August, a school boy who was going to buy ice cream in Kondele was shot dead by the police. They then cut him up and removed the bullet. In Kombewa, Seme ,police shot another boy, cut the skin and removed the bullet also and took his body to the mortuary at midnight’’, Arlois quips.

“Several people specially in Kisumu were shot dead and maimed by the police during the protests, some still live with the bullets lodged in their bodies’, Says Arlois

At the hospital Morgue, a source who sought anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press cited that the body retrieved from Usoma beach, is still lying in the facility.

The source further states that the body was badly rotten such that, they couldn’t establish the cause of their death. The source pointed out that all they noticed was two gaping holes on the chest.

The source also refuted claims about the number of bodies brought to the morgue, citing that they had only received one body and not the four that people were insinuating had been taken there.

“No one has come to identify the body and neither has there been anyone claiming of a missing person report,” the source stated.

The notion of a mass grave at Mamboleo cemetery where locals alleged that police were burying bodies of their slain community members to hide the evidence of police extrajudicial killing in the area is also questionable.According to the scource, the massive grave was for unclaimed and unidentified as was the norm.

Such bodies were buried after they stayed unclaimed for a long period and was a norm, with nothing sinister to it.

Jacqueline Ingutia, the regional coordinator Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHCR) western region offices, admitted that they received information about the body discovered at the beach from one of their monitors among many.

The efforts to reach the police for comments were futile, in that they said they were held up in security meeting.

Unrests were reported in slum areas like Kibera and Mathare in Nairobi, with an allegation that members of the outlawed vigilante group, Mungiki, were behind the atrocities while garnered in police attires and in full glare of the police.

People alleged that sometimes while beating them, that police berets would fall off and they could see dreadlocks, a symbol associated with the vigilante.Considering that no police officer wears dreadlock the locals had a reason tosuspect that the vigilante may have been used to attack them.

According to the Human Rights Watch Report at least 67 people were shot or beaten to death by police nationwide, and hundreds more were injured during these operations. There were troubling reports of rape and sexual harassment during police operations in Kisumu and Nairobi.

The report further states that police officers also carried out violent house to house operations, beating or shooting primarily male residents in the households. Police also beat female residents for failing to produce the males suspected of participating in demonstrations.

At time of writing, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) was investigating just about six of the cases of killings.