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Online war erupts in Kenya after peaceful vote

NAIROBI, Kenya — Tribal lines are being drawn over who won Kenya's presidential election. But unlike the bloody violence that scarred the country five years ago, this time the only fighting is online.

Machete strikes and bows and arrows are being replaced by bitter tweets and angry status updates.

The exchange of barbs between supporters of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta — who was named the winner of the March 4 election with 50.07 percent of the vote — and his closest competitor, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has degenerated into expletive-filled fights in social media that have the government worried.

The Ministry of Information and Communications said this week that it has been unable to contain "the ugly messages of hate and negative ethnicity" online. It said many of the messages qualify as hate speech.

Some officials worry that the virtual feuding could trigger real-life fighting.

"The outrage is becoming wider and the tension is palpable. It's going to erode all our efforts of building national cohesion," Milly Lwanga, vice chair of the government-funded National Cohesion and Integration Commission, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "The buildup of tension, it's like a room where gas is leaking slowly and then eventually there will be something small to ignite it and people will wonder where the explosion came from."

Online war erupts in Kenya after peaceful vote 03/14/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:44pm]
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