Una Hakika: Mapping and Countering the Flow of Misinformation in Kenya’s Tana Delta


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Una Hakika: Mapping and Countering the Flow of Misinformation in Kenya’s Tana Delta

In 2012 and 2013, a series of interethnic massacres between the Orma and Pokomo ethnic groups in Kenya’s Tana Delta threw the local community into chaos. In order to understand why and how the violence happened, the Sentinel Project deployed a team to investigate and propose direct assistance measures to reduce the risk of further violence. It soon became clear that a major contributor to the conflict was the proliferation of rumours in the area, many of them false, some seemingly deliberately propagated by certain actors with malicious purposes, and others transmitted by local residents in a sincere effort to make sense of their information-starved situation. This uncertainty helped to create the atmosphere of fear, distrust, and hatred that enabled the violence. Compounding this situation was a lack of local media and communications infrastructure that otherwise might have enabled the timely investigation and broadcast of accurate information so a local culture developed within this information deficit which relied heavily on word of mouth to transmit news of local events.

The Sentinel Project team realized that addressing this information deficit could produce tangible improvements in stability, security, and inter-communal tensions so the organization proposed a mobile phone-based misinformation management system for the Tana Delta. This initiative also presented an opportunity to research the role of misinformation and its impact on conflict so that a broader understanding of the subject and a corresponding set of tools could be developed for use in contexts outside of the Tana Delta. With funding provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and in partnership with Nairobi-based iHub Research, the Sentinel Project launched Una Hakika (Swahili for “Are you sure?”) in October 2013. The system integrates telecommunications and traditional human networks so that Tana Delta residents can anonymously report unverified information to Una Hakika and receive accurate information in response once local program staff have investigated and verified it.

This report sums up the findings from Phase I. More information can be found here.

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