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Kenya's Twitterati Send Thousands Of Messages To Obama

Mark Kaigwa is a digital strategist in Kenya. He calls #KOT "the unofficial back channel for conversations, questions and commentary."<em></em>
Mark Kaigwa is a digital strategist in Kenya. He calls #KOT "the unofficial back channel for conversations, questions and commentary."<em></em>

Kenyans like to tweet.

A lot.

The report "How Africa Tweets" says Nairobi is "the most active East African city on Twitter.

And this past week, Kenyans have outdone themselves. They're using the hashtag #KenyansMessageToObama to share their concerns with the president, who'll be visiting the country this weekend.

Most of the top tweets are related to the topic of gay rights. Some want the president to talk about the issue. Others disagree.

That kind of debate on hot topics is part of the regular online conversation at #KOT — short for "Kenyans on Twitter." In the past week, #KOT has been used over 34,000 times and counting.

That's where "the country's online citizens mobilize themselves around an idea or ideal," says Mark Kaigwa, Kenyan digital strategist and publisher of .

"The local and regional media houses can only interview so many people and this serves as the global town square, only this time it sees local Kenyans exchange points of view and collectively settle on those that resonate the most."

The tweets are "some of the biggest critics of the state of the country," he adds.

But they also have a good sense of humor. When CNN called the Kenyan region "a hotbed of terror" in advance of the president's visit, tweeters offered a different perspective.

With Obama slated to visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopian tweeters are also speaking out. Their hashtag is #EthiopiansMessageToObama and so far there have been over 9,000 tweets.

Many of those tweets call out recent incidents in which the Ethiopian government has attempted to silence journalists, religious leaders, and others who have been critical of the current administration.

The big question: Is President Obama paying attention to all these tweets?

No comment from the White House.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.