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Ruto US state visit and Mt Kenya politics hog social media

Introduction

This report delves into the trending topics between May 20 and 24, 2024. From President Ruto’s state visit to the United States to the death of Kenyan mountaineer Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui at Mt Everest, this analysis illuminates the dynamic currents shaping both media discourses and societal dialogues.

Ruto’s US state visit

President William Ruto embarked on a historic state visit to the United States on May 19, 2024, marking the first such visit by an African leader in 15 years. The primary objectives of the visit were to fortify bilateral relations and address crucial issues including health collaboration, economic partnerships, and regional security concerns. During his stay, President Ruto engaged in substantive discussions with US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, focusing on global financial restructuring and climate change mitigation efforts. Additionally, he formalised commitments to bolster cooperation in many sectors between Kenya and the US. Beyond the diplomatic agenda, President Ruto seized the opportunity to meet with renowned basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal and visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, among other important locations. This historic visit was widely regarded as pivotal in strengthening the ties between the United States and Kenya, with anticipated benefits including increased investment and collaboration across diverse sectors. There was a substantial discussion online on the cost of the trip and implication of the visit to Kenya and the region.


Impact on media

Media coverage highlighted the outcomes of the visit, particularly the MoUs signed between Kenya and the US to enhance cooperation. Journalists delved into the specifics of these agreements, examining their potential impact on both countries and the wider region. The controversy surrounding Ruto’s use of a private jet, coupled with the ensuing criticism and public discourse, resulted in increased media coverage. News outlets dedicated more airtime, print space, and online articles to analysing the visit, providing varying perspectives, and fostering debates among experts, politicians, and the public.

The tour may prompt the media to intensify its scrutiny of government spending and officials’ use of public resources. Journalists might delve deeper into other instances of perceived extravagance or misuse of taxpayer money, holding public figures accountable and contributing to greater transparency and accountability in governance.

Media coverage of this issue could influence public perception of President Ruto and the government’s handling of financial matters. Depending on the tone and depth of the coverage, it may either bolster or erode trust in the administration’s fiscal responsibility and commitment to serving the interests of the populace. This could, in turn, have implications for future electoral outcomes and political dynamics in Kenya.

#Iranian president dies

The tragic air crash that claimed the life of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi dominated Facebook feeds. Raisi, along with his foreign minister and seven others, died when their helicopter crashed in poor weather conditions near the Azerbaijan border. The helicopter had been reported missing while navigating dense fog. The news of their untimely demise sparked intense debates across various social media platforms, with a majority of users suspecting foul play. Social media was flooded with heartfelt condolences for Iranians. The hashtag #IranPresidentCrashMurder gained significant traction across Facebook, with over 130,000 netizens engaging in discussions.

Impact on media

The detailed coverage of the air crash on social media platforms like Facebook likely piqued the interest of traditional media outlets. The death of a prominent person always interests the media and leads to increased coverage. Media focused on analysing the implications of Raisi’s death, succession plans, and the country’s relations with neighbouring nations and global powers. This led to extensive commentary, opinion pieces, and expert analysis.

Mt Kenya, Gachagua and Uhuru

A section of Mt Kenya leaders allied to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua accused President William Ruto of detaching himself from his deputy. They emphasised their support for Gachagua, stating that the same votes that made Ruto president also made Gachagua DP. However, on May 19, 2024, the Deputy President addressed the claims of division between him and the Head of State, explaining that he had been on a seven-day retreat in the Mt Kenya Forest fasting, meditating, and reflecting on the state of the nation and the welfare of the region. On May 22, Gachagua expressed a desire to engage with former President Uhuru Kenyatta to foster unity in the Mt Kenya region. Tiktok users shared content on the platform and the discussion on the topic gained traction.

Impact on media

The accusations from Mt Kenya leaders and Gachagua’s subsequent statements are likely to fuel media speculation about an alleged rift within the highest level of government. This can lead to extensive coverage, opinion pieces, and analysis regarding the stability and unity of the Ruto administration. Media outlets may scrutinise every public interaction between the President and his deputy, looking for any signs of tension or reconciliation.

The media may also focus on the specific concerns of the Mt Kenya region. This can lead to increased reporting on Mt Kenya issues, giving voice to local leaders and residents. Additionally, the media might explore the dynamics between national and regional leadership, assessing how internal party politics and regional allegiances influence governance and policymaking.

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