Impressive Kenyan Official Use of Twitter

As the horrible events at the Westgate mall in Nairobi still unfold, I want to highlight the impressive use of social media by Kenyan authorities like the police and ministry of interior. Many can learn from them!

  1. 1. Timely information

    – information too late is no information.
  2. We would like to confirm that, the official record of those who died because of the cruel act stands at 62.
  3. Through our operations this morning, we have killed 2 terrorists and we will be giving you finer details going forward.
  4. 2. Messages to the public

    – Twitter is an excellent direct channel
  5. This is a plea, keep off #WestGateMall for your own security. This is a scene of crime and it’s for your own safety.
  6. The ongoing speculations online are going to jeopardize the efforts to rescue the remaining hostages. Please heed and be calm. Pls RT
  7. 3. Personal professional accounts (here Inspector General of the Kenyan Police)

    -Creates calm as we see real people are out there doing their best
  8. Thumbs up to our multi-agency team, we have just managed to rescue some hostages. We’re increasingly gaining advantage of the attackers. IG
  9. 4. Collaboration between agencies

    – Creates calm as we see agencies work in tandem
  10. We urge those of us who have posted graphic images to remove them so as to observe solidarity with the affected families~ @InteriorKE
  11. 5. Understanding the basics of Twitter, eg. verification of accounts, hashtags

    – Creates confidence in the agency
  12. Thank you @twitter has verified account, so we continue updating and encourage you. As we said: One love!
  13. We plead with you to keep off #WestGateMall if you aren’t a security agent,volunteer or a member of the media fraternity.WG is a crime scene
  14. …though there are things to learn, we must keep a critical mind. Also official accounts do best to stick to facts, details and general warnings, and avoid judging the situation as it unfolds.
  15. The security forces are in control of the entire West Gate building and we are doing what must be done to end this.
  16. Fire shows Kenya police has lost control of situation, they seem to do their best to cover their failure. Quite hostile to journos #westgate

This Is Africa – A New Culture Website

My friend Emilie pointed me to the This Is Africa site. It is a spanking fresh culture site that trumpets “Africa for a new generation!” and sports subheadlines like “city life”, “music” and “art&fashion”.

It looks great, slick and graphic in a very modern way. The page has a lot of cool links, for instance to the Ghana based (?) DJ and contributor Akwaaba Music / Benjamin Lebrave. It also features African artists’ music videos in a unique and cool format called The White Room – here Ghana’s Wanlov the Kubolor is one of the artists featured.

But then there is something that makes me suspicious: The website is designed for the specific purpose of connecting Europe a.k.a. “the West” to Africa:

This Is Africa is a media organisation that brings Africa and the West closer together via African contemporary urban culture.

As such, it is funded by the EU. It is managed from Amsterdam as the Director, Editor and Web-manager all live there.

So I cannot help but to ask myself: This Is Africa?

Why Ghana’s MPs Should Be Grateful for their Grades

Photo of the Floor of the Ghanaian Parliament from www.parliament.gh

From Graham, I got the tip about Ghana’s Members of Parliament having been assessed in an Political Performance Index performed by the African Watch Magazine.

Out of the 230 parliamentarians, 24 received F’s. Others received  As and Bs. There were also Cs and Ds. See the full list of grades for Ghanaian MPs here. From a teacher’s point of view, I know that grades sometimes create “learning moments” – reflection and insight could come out of a low grade. This seem to not have happened here. This morning, some of the politicians are lashing out on the grading exercise.

One Member of Parliament that was upset was, Honourable Abayatei from Sege constituency (rated ‘C’), he said to Citi News:

“they sit down and talk rubbish and write rubbish. If they have no work to do, they must shut up…What right has he got to grade us? What assessment has he got the right to do? …Those of you in the Media must call your friends to be sensible. Criteria don’t even come in because he has no right. Worldwide has there been any grading of any Parliament?”

It seems the rating has been done by independent professionals looking at several criteria. According to Ghanamma it was “MP’s Knowledge of Law Making and the Constitution”, “Participation in Legislative Business”, “Contribution to Parliamentary Debates”, “How The Ideas and Suggestions of MPs Reflect Societies Need” and “Interest and Tolerance of Divergent Political Views”. Although this might not be the best and fairest rating, I applaud this survey.

And this is why I think MPs should also be grateful for their grades:

1. The parliament is weak in Ghana, the only way of getting more power is getting more public support, then we need to see you are working.

2. You were probably rated high in the public eye. Only yesterday, the news of laptop computers with Internet connections being given to MPs was shared (following the car loan etc.), and Ghanaians were heard muttering about not having water in their houses. That’s an F grade the Ghanaian people have given to you already (although I personally think the laptops was the best investment the Government of Ghana could do at this point, but that is another post, I guess).

3. Discussion and information sharing should be encouraged by politicians so that you who work hard stand out and get reelected. Someone has done your work for you!

4. It is a PR opportunity. Maybe you initiated something we haven’t heard of, this is your chance to inform us!

5. A hardworking MP loves accountability. Do you really want to share benches with people who do not do their part?

On this note, I have for some time been thinking about how to introduce something similar to Mzalendo, The Eye on the Kenya Parliament. It is a website that publishes information on MPs and their parties. There are also sections for what MPs do; questions, motions and bills they are involved in hence “grading” can be done by the Kenyan people using the facts available. Through such an innovative parliament watch, we can judge for ourselves.

Now with such information available, it would be easier to do a fair assessment. But regardless of that and regardless if a politician feels we have the “right” to do so, we will grade MPs performance.

Isn’t it part of the political game?