Africa, Media

Kenyan military invades Somalia – and Twitter

Kenya has taken to the Twitter to publicise its invasion of Somalia, judging that 140 characters is exactly enough to warn innocent Somalis of their impending doom. By SIMON ALLISON.

Warning enemy civilians of their impending doom is not a new technique. Medieval knights would shout threats to the people of whatever town their armies had besieged, lobbing a dead cow over the walls to underscore the danger (as recreated admirably in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), while US planes dropped thousands of pamphlets over Iraq before the invasion, warning citizens to get out of the way of the incoming troops. It’s a technique used to indemnify the aggressors, an insurance against possible civilian casualties: “Well, we told them we were coming…”.

Kenya has brought this old strategy into the 21st century. Meet Major Emmanuel Chirchir (@MajorEChirchir), spokesman of the Kenyan military and now something of a Twitter legend for his tweets about the progress of the Kenyan incursion into Somalia, getting himself nearly 5,000 followers after just a couple of weeks on the social network.

But with his updates come some serious warnings. “BAIDOA, BAADHEERE,BAYDHABO,DINSUR, AFGOOYE,BWALE, BARAWE,JILIB,KISMAYO and AFMADHOW will be under attack continously[sic],” he tweeted, naming 10 Somali towns that would be targeted by Kenyan forces.

“The Kenya Defence Forces urges anyone with relatives and friends in the 10 towns to advise them accordingly,” he added, the 140 character limit preventing him from elaborating on what that advice might be. Get out of town? Hide under your bed? Throw a goat on the braai and have a party because there’s not much time left?

Chirchir also had a few things to say on the subject of livestock. Pointing out that Al Shabaab is using donkeys to transport weapons, he warned: “Thus, any large concentration and movement of loaded donkeys will be considered as Al Shabaab activity.” Bad news for the many ordinary Somalis for whom donkeys are the only form of transport. But they can’t say they weren’t warned – it was on Twitter, after all. DM