My answer is a vehement NO!
I just had a conversation where it was stated by the other party that the recent sharing of pictures of the mass graves found in North Eastern Province NEP) by Kenyans online was painting a negative picture of our country and is counter-intuitive to the PR efforts of our government meant to drive up tourism.
I agreed that yes, the propagation of knowledge that disappearances and murders happen large scale in this country via trending topics will do nothing to aide our failing tourism industry. Who would want to come to a country where the death of its citizens is treated in such a blase way by government officials. Or worse, who would want to come to a country where the authorities are directly responsible for the mass murder of a whole people? In this regard, yes, our highlighting of the mass graves of NEP will definitely discourage people from showing up at Kenya’s front door suitcase in hand ready to spend money and enjoy their holiday.
I will ask one question though.
Whose fault is it really?
Ok, more than one question. Are we really going to blame online activists for the sins of our flawed government? How fair is it to throw KOT under the bus when all they want is a little justice for the affronted? If the government doesn’t want us airing our dirty laundry on the world wide web why doesn’t it make sure it maintains a clean house first?
I fight for the right for online activists to yap, all day everyday about government failings. If tourism goes down as a result then well and good! Especially considering the consequences should, God forbid, a tourist disappear in NEP and their government discovers his/her remains among those of poor Somali citizens of this country. How many more travel advisories can we survive? I would rather foreigners know to stay away from this broken country, than they show up and end up victims, which would have a way worse impact as PR than anything a Kenyan could ever say on social media.
That said, I actually think that Kenyans’ social media activism is boosting the tourism industry. How? Well, the more noise we make, the more visible we become. In the online world it isn’t an easy fete to generate enough content for it to even be viewed as a problem leave alone a solution. This social media miracle is invaluable as a means of advertising our country’s existence.
We musn’t also discount the fact that being active social and political activists paints Kenyans in a positive light to the rest of the world. That we are plagued by economic and political issues is not news to anyone on the globe. Mass graves in Africa haven’t shocked anyone since Egyptian times. The world’s perception of us is already tattered. However, that we are vocal about our fight for change is excellent. The knowledge that the citizens of Kenya will not stand for injustice creates a sense of hope for a better future.
Hope isn’t an easy emotion to generate in a person. Once cultivated and fed it leads to great change. We shouldn’t be debating whether or not KOT asking for better online is making this country better before we ask if our apparently democratic government is doing as its citizenship wants. There’s a word for that sort of noisemaking and derailment, propaganda. Don’t give into it.