Mashada Forums: Kenyas First Digital Casualty

David Kobia, part of the team behind Ushahidi, is the creator of one of the most widely used Kenyan forums: Mashada. I just got an email from him that is rather disappointing:

As you may already know, I’ve been having quite a problem regulating Mashada.com, despite having recently hired people to moderate the forums. It is starting to become a reflection of what is going on on the ground in Kenya. I’d hate for it to hinder our current efforts since I’m directly connected to it, therefore I’m having to shut down the forums until further notice. Facilitating civil discussions and debates has become virtually impossible.

Mashada Forums offline

The post-election violence in Kenya is horrible. Most of the people who use Mashada are part of the Kenyan diaspora based in the US and Europe, but also a healthy amount from Kenya. So, the vast majority of people using it are seeing and hearing about the atrocities happening to their friends and family and are rightfully upset.

However, that does not excuse the rampant and vitriolic discussions that have been taking place online. Choosing to resort to verbal thuggery, taunts and threats is not the answer.

It is disappointing to watch the devolution of life in Kenya, but to see it being mirrored online by Kenyans around the world makes it even worse.

I understand the frustration. I get that. What I don’t get is how any of the people involved think that this will make anything better.

We can do better than this. We can be better.

25 thoughts on “Mashada Forums: Kenyas First Digital Casualty

  1. Doug

    I have for the past four weeks, read posts that increasingly became vitriol and vile. Personal attacks have become “more than personal” instead of Kenyans coming together in this tumultuous times, we have seemingly drifted apart. I commend the administration (Mashada) on giving us a place to exercise our freedom of speech. But that right comes with responsibility. The need to incite violence in not one of those as it removes from the other rights we have. The freedom to speak has to be tempered with the safety and wellbeing of others. Let’s forget this primal urge to to revert to animal like behavior and look to the future because we depend on it and so do our children.

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  3. Andrew

    The site was good but i felt there were few people focus was to cause fear, hate and misrepresent information.

    Even if you have moderate view you keep see the same message over and over again. It felt very organize. A post would get reposted alarming titles to get a reaction.

    I think as Kenya move forward (if we can) we need a space for the moderate. Were people that care can talk.

    Just because a few are shouting does not mean the moderate voice does exist. It does.

    The blogs and online forums has been taken by people that do not want to hear an opposite voice. You have to sound like to be acceptable.

    We love Kenya. I hope the voice of reason takes over. Learn to argue without the hate. Respect the opposite view so yours can be respected.

    Life precious. Young or old is vary precious. Let us treat it as such.

  4. E-Nyce

    Well, I’ll be the first to say it (flame if you want, I can take it, doesn’t stop the fact that…) Mashada was never a model or place of reasoned and intellectual discourse. Based on its reputation — juvenile, immature — I’m not surprised that trolls and haters would find comfort posting there. I knew this would happen, that’s why I’ve stayed away from there during this time.

    People sometimes need a medium to rant, rave, scream, shake their fists, etc. Fine. Good for the soul, if directed at a wall, or no one in particular. But what if the anguish and hate was turned to others, being blamed for something they didn’t do, just because of their tribe or faith?

    I really am sorry that the forums shuttered — but I’m more sad that they weren’t pulled sooner.

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  7. Joshua

    I have to say this is a big loss (at least for right now) and it is my hope that we can engage in positive discussion as we look for a solution. Similar to Kobia, I have received a lot of negative articles and feedback that I have rejected since they don’t further the chance for Kenyans to get a solution to this problem. I have to applaud Kobia though for the forums are the life and soul of Mashada.

  8. Kenya1

    Its good that the mashada people have finally realized what they have facilitated and are doing something about it. But it has to be said that vitriol was being spewed LONG before this thing became tragic, and Mashada broadcasted it for months on end without any real checks and balances. It feels like the reason the forums have finally been pulled is because the situation on the ground has gotten out of hand. And that is a little disingenuous on Mashada’s part.

    I get the whole freedom of speech and expression thing but they have got to have limits. Of course, Mashada cannot be held accountable for the ignorance of anonymous posters but they shoulder some of blame. Is this not the same as when Myspace gets investigated for FACILITATING the exploitation of children? They dropped the ball big time. I am a firm believer in the power of the pen and i bet mashada, and other sites and blogs i have no desire to mention, contributed significantly to the tragic events.

    See, we walk around asking ourselves how a man could wake up one day and turn violently against his neighbor? I have a one word answer – words. there isnt a Kenyan out there who can claim to not have a friend or acquaintance not of his/her tribe of whom they love as a sibling. But take the same guy and expose him to some nut-jobs’ ignorance, who is purporting to represent the opinion of his/her tribe, spitting all that trash. What happens is that the guy, usually, will rightfully try to dismiss those comments as coming from a madman not representing the views of his good friend X. But what he doesn’t realize is that stuff like that gets lodged in the sub-conscious, to reappear like from nowhere when the proverbial sh1t hits the fan. Thats how people became hard lined. Its the same idea when people stupidly claim that advertisers waste their time putting up commercials because, they have the ability to “tune out” in their minds and filter the ads when they come on and only watch the actual content. Advertisers love such people.

    But kudos Mr. Kobia, better late than never. I commend you guys for taking that one vital step back to sanity. As for the spilled milk i say don’t let it be in vain, save those databases.

  9. kingshark

    Kobia made a decision that is self sacrificing, it was a hard decision, i hope history judges you kindly, am not against it, i just dont think i would have done the same.

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  15. Nikenya

    It was very disappointing to learn that the forum at mashada has been temporarily closed.

    Although I regret what led to that (I belief the forum was left to run with little or no moderation for a long time until it went out of board).

    I strongly belief in enabling fellow Kenyans to have access, means and ways of expressing themselves, therefore the kobia group deserves a thank you note for thinking for an alternative.

    What baffles me up to now is my lack of understanding as to why majority of the so called educated Kenyans in the diaspora decided to stoop so low and be blinded by all the hatred, prejudice and tribalism…

  16. Barnabas Elisha Waweru

    A friend of mine from a country, previously behind the iron curtain, once told me that the only way they could keep sane under their oppressive regimes was that they took the mickey out of all their politicians and civil servants, to show that they were temporary, not wanted and considered to be parasites, using the taxes paid by poor workers as well as foreign aid for themselves. They had to laugh if they did not want to cry.

    I came not to bury Emilio Mwai Kibaki but to praise him, or whatever Shakespeare would or would not say.

    The Rt. Hon Kibaki comes from a family of clairvoyants. His father, Mzee Kibaki, was already dreaming about the web and e-mail when his son was born. In his absent mindedness, he named him E-mailio. But when he was to be registered, the ignorant mzungu priest of the local Church misunderstood it and he mis-spelled it to E-milio, thinking perhaps that Mzee Kibaki was planning a large family of a million. The name stuck.

    Emilio showed great intellectual promise in many subjects at an early age, except for languages and public speaking. But you could not hold this against him, as even such brilliant men as Winston Churchill had difficulty with Latin at Harrow School. At Makerere University, where young Emilio became a Professor of Economics, he normally got someone else to write his lectures, in line with modern economic thought of the division of labour. This has already shown the astuteness of a budding politician, in which trade most speeches are written by others, only to be read to the ignorant very slowly, a habit which he retains even today.

    Engaged most of the time in deep intellectual thought, Emilio never managed to find time to develop certain human attributes, such as courage and some nasty people took advantage of this and started calling him “General Kiguoyo”. Such a reference is normally aimed by us Kikuyus to persons who prefer to retaliate from the shadows, finding people, who will do the act for them, after making impeccable plans how to execute it. Again, the name stuck and most websites unkindly refer to him by that name. But being courageous is only for fools and not for those with intellect and a strong instinct for survival. Today the jobless and dispensable members of the Mungiki sect can be used for such a service for peanuts.

    Unfortunately, in more recent years, the lack of his linguistic ability became more apparent. For example, he chose the banana as a symbol for his party, the PNU (pronounced Pee oN U). Though the banana is a tasty and nutritious fruit, it has two unfortunate characteristics, it is bent and it is yellow. He cannot be blamed for such oversight, just because in the language of the colonialists “yellow” refers to someone who is a coward. It is neither the banana’s nor Emilio’s fault.

    Then some nasty people unkindly took the banana business too far. They said that his government should not be referred to as the Kibaki but the MABATI government. I always thought that they meant that he had a wide popular support among poor Kenyans, many who live in houses made of corrugated iron, called mabati. But one day I was enlightened by a despicable person, who said: ”Barni, you are a pumbavu (fool), like most other Kenyans, according to Bw. Kibaki. (I do not hold it against him, as if you were a Professor, particularly with the title of “emeritus”, whatever that means, you have to uphold intellectual superiority over the ignorant masses). What it means is that his party is so bent that it is corrugated”. In fact he used the word “karuagated”. It took me some time to figure it out that he may have referred to that fine lady Martha Karua, his Minister of Justice with some other offices and titles, which I do not remember. Then he went on saying that in spite of it all, people with potential can make it, even if their father came from an area where most people were employed by the Nairobi City Council as cleaners of public choos. It must have been during colonial times as such practice, I mean cleaning choos, was abandoned long ago. In spite of his young age this aquantance of mine has a deep knowledge of Kenya’s history.

    Now, I am an ardent admirer of Martha Karua. She is an intelligent, brave, quick-witted, attractive woman, no matter what her father may have been employed as. She would make a great First Lady, giving political and speech-writing support to President Kibaki on his travels to some distant conference, just to keep out of all those nasty political upheavals at home, which could be left to the GSU to sort out, by shooting a few thousand ignorant wananchi. This change of task should not be difficult, as one of his wives, who calls herself “First Lady Lucy Kibaki”, after face slapping many rude dignitories in the past, decided to have a holiday at State House and as a good farmer, to tend her chicken and goats. Lucy and Martha are good friends and they normally decide between them what Emilio should do. But it seems that Martha also finds the job tiring as the job of attacking everybody was given to a man called Wetangular.

    In fact, I am very concerned about Miss Karua. I saw a photo of her during the recent Annan negotiations. She looked twice her 42 years, worn and sick. It is not worth loosing your beauty just to sit around a table and talk endlessly about agreements, which would be approved by most reasonable people as a good thing for the country, but you have no intention to keep to them, once they are signed. I am also concerned about that bishop (not sure if he is catholic) who is said to be her lover. He may not find her attractive anymore in her run down state, just to sacrifice herself for the state. Poor woman, recently an ex British High Commissioner had the audacity of taking the mickey out of her in a televised program called “Hardtalk”. In her usual way she tried to deliver an angry verbal knock out, whilst her opponent, Sir Edward, remained cheerful and cool as a cucumber and got her at every blow. Very ungentlemanly.

    I also feel that Bw. Michuki and Miss Karua, being patriotic Kenyans, have a right to criticise Kenya’s colonial past. Some uninformed old people maintain that when the Brits marched in, they only found bush which produced nothing. When they left, a hundred years later, they handed over a country with a functioning uncorrupt government, roads, railway, telephone, industry, agriculture which could feed everyone, functioning civic institutions, etc. They also left behind a well-disciplined trained army, an efficient non corrupt police force, a booming tourist industry, well-run cities and towns, water and electricity supplies which worked, hospitals, schools, a skilled workforce, an almost uneventful public security even for Africans, just to mention a few things.

    Some white bean counters even have the audacity to try to attach a tag of price difference between these intruders’ coming and going and they say that few of those colonialists or their government walked away with any wealth after they left the country to retire into their 3 bedroomed semi, wearing threadbare sports jackets with leather patches at the elbows. They were, of course simpletons, ignorant of economics, inflation, the joys of nyama choma, big houses, Mercedes motorcars, etc. In fact the successive governments after independence were much more efficient than the Brits. It took them less than 50 years to undo everything.

    I think it is fair to give them a mouthful. But most of our people blame them only from hearsay and to blame them for everything is wearing thin. To be fair, logical and pc, we should find an all purpose, universal scapegoat. We should also be careful, as if we upset them, they may club up with other white people against us and we may find that the billions of foreign aid, which would be useful for buying private overseas properties and bagatelles such as farms, Pajeros and Lexuses by our politicians, civil servants etc, if handed to our government, may dry up. In spite of being right, we need to be diplomatic. I suggest that when our government makes the usual complete screw-up of something, we should say “It was the hand of the enemy” and that could be anybody, but our leaders still could justify their mistakes to the wananchi. This despicable acquantance of mine turns every word inside out and says that the parliament is made up from two French words: parler means to speak and mentir is to lie, also says that the word leader comes from lead and err suggesting that these ever erring people hang around our necks like lead weights. I am still trying to figure all this out.

    The other day on the radio one of the opposition’s spokesmen said that the Right.Hon. Kibaki cannot be trusted as he never keeps his word. This is the type of people whom you find among the opposition: not only insulting but totally illogical. How can you be called the “right honorary”, then accused of not keeping your word, in the same sentence?

    We should uphold our traditional African values of respecting age. We must not keep blaming a sick old man. The Right Hon. Kibaki is 77. His health and faculties are failing, his customary punishment is meted out to him at home every day. Yet, in spite of all that, he carries on regardless, as he always did. Let us be generous and forgiving, as he may not have much time left. Let it be in the next world for him to pay “the uttermost farthing”, if by some remote chance, he has done something wrong in this one. He needs all our support in his final years.

  17. Barnabas Elisha Waweru

    How taxpayers money is squandered?

    We are often told that there are not enough policemen. Then why are 4 APs guarding rich, ex MPs houses in various locations FOC? Surely they could pay for their own security to civilian security companies. Yet Wangari Mathai, who does a lot of useful work and is being threatend by the Mungiki sect, is refused police protection?

    Why is VP Kalonzo Musyoka wondering around the world on tax payers money ?
    Nowhere is he taken seriously, even many in his own tribe consider him as an opportunist turncoat and refer to him as Mushy-nyoka. He should be given some job at home.

    Why are MPs whose usefulness is limited, owing to their lack of skills and laziness, paid enormeous salaries and benefits? They should be interviewed by an independent organisation, like any would be employee, before even allowed to offer themselves for election. In any case 200,000/- monthly salary should be the limit and the government should set up a guesthouse where they can book themselves in, when attending parliement.

    Why are ministers and civil servants are given large Mercedeses? Surely a medium sized run of the mill car would be quite sufficient.

    Bloggers should report in your pages excesses by government employees. When we have such unemployment and poverty around, there is no place for fatcats wondering around aimlessly.

  18. Barnabas Elisha Waweru

    We Kenyans seem to be naïve and go along what our politicians are telling us. We even respect them but we are beginning to realize that they are misleading and robbing us.

    The other day, when I was waiting to sort out a simple problem with the Nairobi City Council ( I think, the 8th time this year and many more times last year) I overheard a young loudmouth, who seemed to have no respect for our leaders. What was worse that most of the people not only agreed, but added to it.

    The first question was: “Do you guys realize that we are now colonized by the Chinese? There are over a million of them in Africa and they are flooding in. They are often simple mkonos and get a two year work permit for 20,000/- whilst my boss, a very experienced mzungu has to pay 200,000/- for the same. Whilst the Chinaman gets his permit in an hour the mzungus’ files get “lost”. Our politicians sold the country to the Chinese. We shall be soon out of jobs as they will take all the jobs, what we Africans are quite capable of doing, even better as they do not speak English or Swahili. Several presidents, like that man in Zambia got a big bribe for selling all the copper to them for a very low price”

    “But they are building a beautiful road from Mombasa for nothing”

    “ Do you think they are building it for us? No! We have good climate and fertile land and rice grows fast in Western. There is a world shortage of rice. They are not going to make a screw up like our government made all the rice schemes. But they have to get the rice to Mombasa and our railway got spoilt after the mzungus left. So they will need a road right upto Kisumu. They will get there and afterwards they will get the railway going, as it is a cheaper form of transport, but it takes longer to build. But we shall be getting no rice. Eventually, we shall have no say and other African countries will have no say, we can thank our greedy politicians for it”.

    “They are even in the Sudan and Nigeria after oil and that man, ugly mug Abi, that is Mugabi, sold the country to them as well. They are now going into the Congo for all the minerals. The Chinese have plenty of dollars and Euros and pounds as when the mzungus give us foreign aid, we buy Chinese goods, some very bad ones, and we give them the foreign exchange. I am sure our politicians can figure that much out, but they do not care and the Chinese media says nothing”

    “I think we need to sort out our own problems first”.

    “It maybe too late by then. We worry about how many ministries we shall have occupied studded by people who know nothing, except filling their pockets and do nothing else. No matter how hard I think and my friends think, we cannot come up with more than 15, unless we also have one for dogs and the other for cats and one for managing snowstorms. I also think that ministries should be staffed on the top by technical people, such as engineers, doctors, scientists, bankers, who understand what their ministry tries to do. Just to explain my reasoning. Take a Jambo jet, designed by engineers, nothing can be more complicated. That Jambo will take off year after year, reaches dizzy heights, then lands smoothly most of the time, no matter how stormy the weather is. Look at any project managed by a ministry. It never takes off, but manages to crash land. That is what you get out of a minister who has not got a clue.”

    “ I think that the job of a minister or even an MP is like any other job. The man should be interviewed by an independent panel to see if he is fit for the job. But, for more senior jobs, the candidate should also be examined medically to see if he is sound in mind and body, not too fat, not a drunkard, what is his family like, as if his wife is difficult, it will influence his job. If he passes all this, he can be put forward by his party for election”.

    “ I think all elections are flawed”

    “ Now how can you say that? Even in Europe?”

    “ It seems. You go into the voting booth. What you see is some names and you have to choose. What happens if you know that all the candidates are useless thieves, who are only there to fill their pockets. You should be able to say on your voting paper that I do not want any of them. If enough people say so, then those candidates will not be voted in and their parties have to put forward others. It may delay things but at least you get MPs who will work”

    Luckily, it was my turn to be attended to by some clerk, who had no record of my case and told me to come back another day. At least I heard some good people to talk sense. I learned more than from the speeches of our politicians. I am also beginning to realize that the ordinary people have no respect for our so called leaders, they are looked on as parasites, who are only there to sell us into slavery, into poverty, into hopelessness. They are no longer able to fool our people. When I was a young man after independence, I spoke to a very senior clergyman. He said: ”Do you know who is the biggest enemy of an African?” “The colonialist” I said, with conviction. “Not so my friend. They maybe arrogant at first, but once you get to know them and you prove your worth, most of them are reasonable people. It is our so called political elite, those are the people you need to watch”. At the time, I was not convinced, but over the years I realized that this small, self effacing man had a deeper knowledge of human nature than at the time I credited him with.

  19. chocolateeurydice

    Barnabas Elisha Waweru,

    I love your lampooning of Kenya’s political selfish elite.
    Do you have a blog ?!!!

    LOL.

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  21. Maria

    I am wondering why the site is still out of control? I refer to mashada as a hate site. The so called “moderator” is the one who promotes the hate in the forum and harasses members. Althougth actual moderators never log in; the person who seems to run the site is Kukurukakakara. He faithfully says he will call Kobia and have someone banned or erased. His promises always hold true as he is able to complete the action or contact the admin. Kukurukakakara post peoples personal information such as pictures on the web. The site has been hacked and personal pm and information were posted all over mashada. The posts were never erased. The site preaches tribalism, racism and anti-muslim.

    The chat and the forums both preach hate.
    It is a hate free for all with no controls.

  22. Babaregina

    If Mwai Kibaki ameshindwa kuongoza Kenya atoke. Ama tutafute njia awekwe korokorini; King’ong’o prison ndio iko karibu na kwake Othaya. PNU haiwezi kujifanya hawaelewi what equal power sharing means mpaka sasa.

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