Kenya’s political aspirants continue to engage youth through the social media with messages ranging from those of national importance to personal ads on future political engagements, though the conversation remains one-sided.
Many of the politicians have a huge following on both Facebook and Twitter, two of the world’s leading social networking sites (SNS). A survey carried out by The Guardian put two of the contenders for the presidency in Kenya among the top 10 most active African politicians on social media.
In the survey in late October Raila Odinga took third position with 91,700 followers, behind South Africa’s former president of the African National Congress Youth League Julius Malema and leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance Helen Zille with 243,000 and 188,000 followers respectively.
Uhuru Kenyatta came in at number five with 81,570 followers behind Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who has 87,000 followers.
Locally, the Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua (@MarthaKarua) continues to dominate Twitter with 107,500 followers, ahead of Odinga (@RailaOdinga) and Kenyatta(@UKenyatta).
Presidential hopeful Peter Kenneth (@peter_kenneth) has 49,400 followers while vice president Kalonzo Musyoka (@skmusyoka) has 19,900 followers.
On Facebook, Uhuru Kenyatta leads with 281,000 likes, followed by Martha Karua with 215,000, William Ruto with 135,000, Peter Kenneth with 134,000 and Odinga’s 72,400.
Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi continue to struggle with 35,000 and 28,000 respectively.
However, despite some candidates having a large following on social media, the level of interaction has been one-way in most instances.
Apart from Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth, who are known to have engagement sessions with their followers on Twitter, voters have seen less interaction with their preferred candidates. Kenneth and Karua have amassed a combined 14,000 tweets, compared to 2,500 tweets for the leading preferred candidates according to opinion polls.
How influential the social media is going to be in the run up to the polls remains to be seen.
In the run up to the US presidential polls, the social media played a pivotal role in campaigning with President Obama announcing victory on Twitter before giving the acceptance speech using the SNS platform.
The question, however, is whether the posts on SNS represent the views of the candidates or their strategic teams, and as to whether one day this medium can be ever used to break down the iron curtains between politicians and the electorate.
-@ukenyatta 81576 1396 tweets FB 281k
-@RailaOdinga 91770 1206 tweets FB 72430
-@Marthakarua 107530 8964 tweets FB 215K
-@peter_kenneth 49454 5752 tweets 134k
-FBWilliam Samoei Ruto 135k
-FBMusalia Mudavadi Beyond 2012 28k
-FBKalonzo Musyoka 35k, @skmusyoka19.9k