November 23, 2017

Collective Kenyan Memory? Not Long Enough

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By Hellen Nanzia

Before the debatable fame of Mollis there was Jadudi. And on instinct I brushed it aside as another passing wind on social media, because given the collective memory of Kenyans it seemed like it was bound to pass. But it wasn’t. It was retweeted, favourited, discussed and even had an M-pesa pay bill number. A growing curiosity gnawed at me and I eventually got online to check in with KOT, there again I see, 1MilliforJadudi so I decided to find out who this Jadudi fellow is (because unlike their previous mass flooding Jadudi didn’t have the tell-tale memes that tell you it’s a joke). Emmanuel Otieno or “Jadudi” as he is popularly known is 23-year old political science and sociology student at the University of Nairobi. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012 and has been struggling with it ever since. After three brain surgeries, you can bet his family was drained not only emotionally but in other ways.

The social media cogs begun turning. Jackson Biko on his blog post titled “That thing in Jadudi’s head” on the Tuesday 4th August explained the emotional rollercoaster many of us have had to face when we receive bad news and especially if it involves cancer or any other serious medical condition. Jadudi needed 1 million by Saturday night to go for brain surgery in India.

Kenyan on Twitter (#KOT) immediately picked up the conversation and it was retweet after favourite after M-pesa message. Zawadi Ny’ongo who worked closely with Jackson Biko on the campaign recounted (in a media interview) her mother telling her that the money in the bank was trending just as much as the hash tag on twitter #1MilliforJadudi. In fact, in just four hours they had surpassed the Ksh. 1 million target. The campaign has been closed as of 6th August with a total sum of Ksh 6,111, 338! If this does not bring tears to your eyes you must be made of stone.

Kenyans on social media should pat themselves on the back for the show of unity and humanity. If everyone behaved in the same way towards everyone else just picture how different the world, or this country at least, would be. But sadly, social media is not all roses and teddy bears.

Kenyans on Twitter are not always this supportive. For example, do you remember Cyprian Nyakundi? If you have forgotten the name don’t worry. Collective Kenyan memory, remember?

Cyprian Nyakundi is the blogger who has been sued by Safaricom Limited for defaming the company on his blog. He claimed that Safaricom was infringing on the privacy of its customers and giving the sack to ill members of its staff illegally. KOT supported the hash tag on twitter but gave little to no contribution in monetary terms. But remember, there was immense support given in jokes and memes-the currency of social justice.

The blogger soon received a court order published in a local daily newspaper summoning him to court.
(Ironic really considering the newspaper was once considered social media, back in the day when the crowd gathered and read it over your dad’s shoulder…or your dad read it over someone else’s shoulder and a social exchange ensued. But I digress)

So he was summoned to court and that’s when things got thick. More support was promised on twitter, there was even talk of people gathering at the court in a show of support. But that soon evaporated into a hashtag #LawyerforNyakundi or something to that effect. Then we allowed ourselves to forget.

We did the same with the supermarket issue. Furious customers took photos of milk and the price displayed on the shelf, payed an extra ten shillings or so then took a photo of the receipt. Given this is not normal behavior; they completed the series of actions by uploading the entire set of photos to social media and adding a furious comment. Then we allowed ourselves to forget.

Sometimes, Kenyan on Twitter will diffuse a real issue into a serious joke like the #Mollis situation. It is alleged that the girl in the viral audio begging the unknown fellow Mollis/Morris/Maurice (one of these spellings is bound to be right) to stop, was raped under the influence of drugs. Kenyans on Twitter were quick to laugh and make memes out of it but this rubbed some on social media the wrong way. Another campaign #EndRapeCulture has soon started and is gaining momentum.

And given a week, #Mollis will be a faint memory as we allow ourselves to forget. And we will.
Despite the obvious ignorance and blatant sarcasm, KOT has proved that sticking together and standing up for our own people is what makes this nation greater. That and the idea that KOT is almost our online army. Forgive the comparison but when need be #KOT is Twitter-KDF.

#SomeoneTellCNN

#SomeoneTellNigeria

#SomeoneTellSouthAfrica

#SomeoneTellUganda

And they have never lost a deployment on foreign…internet space.

The story of Jadudi goes a long way in showing the generosity and caring nature of Kenyans. But other incidents stand to show they are a vicious lot. And yet more interaction shows they have immensely short memories.

My advice, don’t read too much into it. Social media is complicated everywhere in the world, but in this country…just pray they are really on your side like Jadudi and never hunting you down in Twitter-KDF form. But if they do, never thee mindeth.

Collective Kenyan memory, remember?

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