Accepted paper:

Images of the KDF in Somalia: Al Shabaab, Kenyans on Twitter and Propaganda of the Dead


Thomas Molony (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the circulation on social media of images showing casualties of an Al Shabaab attack on KDF troops in Somalia. It informs debates about access to information and the regulation of social media during times of insecurity.

Paper long abstract:

In January 2016 Al Shabaab launched a deadly assault on an AMISOM base garrisoned by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops in El Adde, Somalia. The bloodiest defeat for the KDF since independence, the attack supplied the perpetrators with much new visual material for their propaganda efforts. Drawing on interviews and focus groups conducted in Kenya shortly after the attack, this paper discusses various responses to Al Shabaab's use of the internet to publish brutal images taken from the scene. It outlines the Government of Kenya's attempts to restrict the circulation of the photographs, and points to how this was made more difficult not only by the widespread use of social media, but by the highly seductive power of visual imagery - a key tool employed by both sides in an online battle for the hearts and minds of a Kenyan population increasingly informed by 'news' as presented on social media. This case addresses issues relating to the general public's access to security-related information, and informs debates about the regulation of social media during times of insecurity.

panel P028
Social media and the political sphere in Africa: reshaping democratic engagement?