How Social media shaped the 2022 Kenyan Election

By Ted Apondi

Having just concluded the controversial general election on August 9th, a wide array of actors in Kenya have taken steps to create a controlling narrative. Political parties, analysts, agents and voters and non-voters alike have all stormed the social media scene on Twitter, Meta and Instagram to give their view and assert their position on the outcome of the election. The Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) has been at helm of hilarious memes, political analyses and some worrying clickbait stories. Now, the Supreme Court will determine whether their operations were transparent or “opaque” All in all, it is evident that the use of social media for agenda-setting in this election cannot be understated. After all, it has been said that the one with the best story is the one who rules the world.

Whether you are a “hustler” or a fan of “Azimio” or part of the Wajackoyah revolution, it is no secret that this election has moved the hearts and minds of many Kenyans. Despite the relative low turnout countrywide, there has been a high tide of Kenyans online from the nation and in the diaspora who have shared or retweeted viral content regarding this election. The mitigating factor however, has been the nature of the content shared. The Kenyan election shocked many East Africans and even more at the continent level as this election -unlike 2017- allowed for anyone, globally, with an internet connection and a calculator to the have the access and capacity to do their own tallying of the Presidential results straight from the IEBC portal. For this reason alone, conversations surrounding who between William Ruto or Raila Odinga would be crowned the “5th” had execrated to a point whereby parties, pundits and citizens were already declaring their favored winner before the IEBC itself. This was coupled with media houses tallying their own results at varying rates which created tension and suspicion among Kenyans who sought to claim that one media house was being controlled by the “deep state” while another was favoring the “hustlers”.

In spite of the well-intentioned bid for transparency by the IEBC, the mass confusion and hysteria for announcing a favored candidate as the winner of their respective election did not stop at the national level. For example, the gubernatorial races in Homabay, Nairobi and Kirinyaga saw candidates and some political party bloggers go head to head and “thank God” for their alleged wins based on their own tallying only to find out that they needed to wait for official results from the electoral body. This only brought about another flurry of memes that question the role of God and religion in this election especially when the same issue occurred at the national level. Even Roots Party Candidate Professor Wajackoyah had cheekily affirmed that he would be declared the winner of the Presidential election despite having less than 1% of the total valid votes at the time of making this statement. This figure did not rise further at the end of counting. Thus, despite the comical nature of these events, the fact that all levels of voting propelled uncertainty to anxious voters also caused a tough monitoring situation for election observers at both the national and international level. All parties involved had to be keen on ensuring they followed the voting auspiciously to avoid false or sensational reporting that would damage the already fragile image of Kenyan elections as free and fair.

The current landscape foresees a situation whereby all eyes have now been fixated on the Supreme Court. Deputy IEBC chair Juliana Cherera and three other commissioners openly came out on the day of announcement to distance themselves from this final tallying of the presidential results deeming the process as “opaque” and unverifiable due to the controversial additional 0.01% or 0.1% element that cropped up after doing a total of the official percentages posted by the IEBC online. Kenyans who were political analysts before the election, party agents and returning officers during the same had now transformed into mathematicians and lawyers in a heated bid to contextualize the interpretation of these results. Some popular Hashtags that have developed include #Kenyadecides2022, #Changamkiavoteyako, #ChebukatiCannotBeTrusted, #TusibleedndowaLead #KenyaDecides2022, #the5th #Cherera #RutoThe5Th, #Babathe5th, #Hustler and the #Deep state. If one was to deconstruct the Twitter threads chained to these hashtags we see that Kenyans have really taken politics to heart rather than keeping it in the lungs for ease of relief as popularly advised by one Jackson Mandagor. As it seems, these social pressures on elections may yet prevail given the Presidential election still being on the ropes. One advice to Kenyans however, is to verify their sources acutely, otherwise we may fall into a situation whereby fake news prevails over truth and as much as truth is bitter, Kenyans deserve a truthful and fair election season for once.


Ted Apondi is a final Year Diplomacy and Foreign Policy Major concentrating on Peace and Conflict Studies at USIU-AFRICA. He is interested in Kenyan politics, the Africa 2063 agenda.