Businesses were interrupted Wednesday, July 12, in several parts of the country as Kenyans participated in demonstrations called by Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance. Last week while holding their rally in Nairobi, Azimio leaders announced countrywide anti-government protests.
As is the norm, demonstrations were expected to be in high gear in Azimio strongholds as was witnessed last Friday, July 7 - in Kisumu where Azimio principal Raila Odinga enjoys a cultic following, at least two people were killed during the demonstrations according to Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki.
When launching a signature drive dubbed ‘Tumechoka Citizen Initiative,’ Mr Odinga said part of their anti-government protests will include collecting at least fifteen million stamps from Kenyans who are dissatisfied with President William Ruto’s administration.
While this collection of signatures has no legal basis to impeach a sitting president, the Azimio leadership says the drive is part of a civil disobedience push to pressure the government to meet some of its demands.
“The digital platform is complementary to all other efforts including civil disobedience, tax boycotts and defiance meant to compel the regime to repeal the Finance Act 2023 and take deliberate steps to lower the cost of living,” said Raila on the eve of the Wednesday mass action.
From as early as 7am, The Standard monitored tweets from the Azimio TV verified account updating their followers on the progress of protests in various parts of the country. “Eldoret Town were warming up, now coming in hot. Vrooooom!” read one of the tweets.
We also monitored top trending topics in Kenya, a majority of them were associated with the protests called by the opposition. In fact, #MaandamanoWednesday was the number one trending topic on Twitter most of the day. A number of social media influencers associated with the opposition were tweeting using the hashtag. Eldoret, Mlolongo, Kibera and Nyeri were also trending topics on the microblogging site.
The viral video
As we monitored the trends, we noticed an unusual video that was a top tweet under the Eldoret trending topic. The thirteen-second clip showed hundreds of people trailing a white pickup while shouting at the top of their voices. A loud voice that sounded like a hooting car or a vuvuzela could also be heard.
“Eldoret is a war zone as we speak. Viva! #Maandamano #Maandamanowednesday.” read Karen Wanjiku’s video caption. Several Twitter users also posted the video on their accounts with similar keywords. From our observation, we noticed most the tweets supported the ongoing protests across the country. Eldoret, in Uasin Gishu County, is President William Ruto’s backyard.
A keener look at the video however raised our suspicion about its authenticity. First, the video used image filters that made it appear like an old video. We went back to the trending topics and also noticed that there were no other videos showing demonstrations in Eldoret as sensationally claimed by the Twitter users.
We called our colleagues based in Eldoret to confirm the status of protests in the region. “It’s only transport that has been disrupted due to the strike by PSV operators,” said The Standard reporter Titus Too, confirming anti-government protests were not happening in Uasin Gishu.
A reverse image search further confirmed our suspicions to be true.
Using screenshots from the video, we discovered that the clip was old footage, captured on August 2022. The original video involved protests in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria, According to media reports, fourteen youths were reportedly killed by security outfit Ebubeagu in Awo-Omamma, Imo State, Nigeria as they were returning home from a traditional wedding.
Further analysis of several videos posted online during the Nigerian protests shows similar geographical features to the video in question.
The Standard can therefore confirm that the viral video circulating on Twitter and other social media platforms is misleading content. This type of content can pass as propaganda which is used by individuals who want to influence attitudes, beliefs and emotions of their targets.