Record 7,000+ Kenyans Attend Twitter Debate on BBI Ruling (PHOTOS)

The audience consisted of over 7,000 users, touted so far as the country's biggest Twitter forum, and included a section of MPs, Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi as well as scores of renowned journalists and media personalities.

Record 7,000+ Kenyans Attend Twitter Debate on BBI Ruling (PHOTOS)

Over 7,000 netizens on Thursday, May 20 attended an online discussion by Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi through Twitter's new forum Spaces, where the main agenda was the recent High Court ruling on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) bill.

There were fears that the forum would crash as the Spaces platform had proven incapable of hosting large audiences during its pilot phase, but it managed to run smoothly for the entire nearly two and a half-hour period after a few tweaks and improvements made by Twitter to make hosting a Space effective for everyone.

The audience consisted of over 7,000 users, touted so far as the country's biggest Twitter forum, and included a section of politicians, Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi as well as scores of renowned journalists, media and prominent personalities alongside fellow Kenyans.

Screenshot of the live Twitter Space attended by over 7,000 netizens on May 20, 2021, with the main agenda being the BBI ruling. /SAMSUNG FILE.MARVIN CHEGE

Much was laid on the table, including Attorney General Paul Kihara's attempted appeal against the BBI ruling by the five-judge bench consisting of Justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Teresia Matheka and Chacha Mwita, and how it went up in smoke just four days later. 

Ahmednasir had explained that the constitution allowed AG Kihara to bypass the Court of Appeal and file an appeal at the Supreme Court. This provision is under Section 17 of the Supreme Court as it allows the highest court to listen to exceptional circumstances such as the BBI ruling which has an implication on the constitution.

However, he argued that the Supreme Court is the weakest link in the Judiciary as one needs to only convince four out of the seven judges to rule in his favour. Nelson Havi had  weighed in, stating that the Supreme Court judges have faced questions on their integrity and independence and only a few believed to be able to stand their ground. 

Ahmednasir further added that the BBI ruling is regarded as one of the biggest decisions ever made by the Kenyan court and can be used as a reference by other countries in matters of checks, balances and exercise of powers by Presidents. Courts always borrow jurisprudence from each other, especially commonwealth countries. 

Also debated was how the ruling on the BBI bill blew open an opportunity for anyone to impeach President Uhuru Kenyatta. The High Court had determined that the Head of State had contravened Chapter 6, Article 73 (1) (a) (i) of the Constitution by initiating the BBI process in contrast to its provisions on amending it.

President Uhuru Kenyatta during a past virtual meeting. /PSCU

Lawyer Charles Kanjama had stated that President Kenyatta can now be impeached, unless the ruling by the High Court is set aside. According to the court, the BBI task force was a matter of a presidential task force and not an initiative favouring the people.

What is Spaces?

Spaces was announced in December 2020 and launched as a beta test a month later for select individuals. It has been adding more abilities to reinforce its presence on the social media network, from allowing accounts with 600 or more followers to host Spaces to its recent option that allows for hosts to schedule a Space for later, receiving two notifications; 30 minutes to the start of the meeting and a second after it starts, and can be scheduled up to two weeks in advance.

"Hosts can then Tweet, DM, or use other sharing options to promote their space. Cards with their space details will render natively on Twitter.

"Prospective listeners can subscribe to receive reminders directly from the space card when the space begins. We'll also remind hosts to start their space as the start time approaches. Once the host goes live we'll reminder subscribed listeners to tune in!" stated Twitter product manager Jeremy Browning on Thursday, May 20.

Twitter describes Spaces as a "place to come together, built around the voices of the people using Twitter, your Twitter community". In other words, the audio-based Spaces allows a user to gather with another person or a group of users for live conversations. They will see them appear while they're happening and once they end, they will no longer be available publicly on Twitter.

Twitter had stated that it will retain copies of Spaces for 30 days to "review for violations of the Twitter Rules". Hosts can download a copy of their Space data for as long as Twitter retains a copy of it. Speakers can download a copy of the transcription of what was said, too.

The online platform is available to all users od Twitter for iOS and Android. When someone you follow starts or speaks in a Space, it’ll appear at the top of your timeline as a purple bubble for as long as it’s live. 

When you join a Space as a listener, you can react to what you hear with emojis, tweet or DM the Space, or request to speak. Likewise, when you create a Space, you’re in control of who’s speaking, as well as the topics and more.

Separate screenshot showing the number of attendees present in Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi's Twitter Space debate on BBI on May 20, 2021. /COURTESY

How to Create a Space

  1. Click on the add icon bottom right and then tap the new Spaces icon from the pop-up.
  2. You can invite people to speak, share thoughts, send emojis, and more. Make sure to select who can join with speaking privileges.
  3. Your mic will be off to start. When ready, tap Start your Space.
  4. Allow mic access by toggling Allow mic access.
  5. Choose whether or not you want to Share transcriptions by toggling the button on or off.
  6. Now you can start recording in your Space.

Note: Only the person who created the Space has the ability to end it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you control who speaks?

Yes. When creating a Space, you can select who can join with speaking privileges by choosing from:

  1. Everyone
  2. People you follow
  3. Only people you invite to speak (lets you send DM invites).

Note: You can change privileges at any time while the Space is open.

Can you control who listens?

For now, Spaces are public and anyone can join as a listener. If you create a Space, your followers will see it in their Fleets. There is no limit on the number of listeners.

Note: As the person who has opened a Space, you can also remove, report, and block users in a Space at any time.

How to join a Space

Find the Space in your Fleets section, select it, and then tap the Join this Space button that pops up. Your mic will be off to start.

If you're joining a Space as a speaker, in addition to talking, you can pin tweets to the Space, turn on captions so everyone can follow along with what you’re saying, and tweet the Space so your followers can join.

Who can try Twitter Spaces?

At the moment, anyone using Twitter's iOS app or Android app can join a Space, but only select individuals with more than 600 followers can host Spaces. 

Note: Accounts with protected tweets are not able to create Spaces, but they can join and speak in other people’s spaces.

In addition, Twitter is also working on enabling hosts to earn money from their spaces, a feature that could not only boost the platform but also provide a source of revenue.

Screengrab of various Twitter Spaces. /FILE