A popular Kenyan website asking a simple question, ‘Is Uhuru In Kenya?’, went offline on 7th December. The website, isuhuruinkenya.co.ke, was set to display a YES when President Uhuru Kenyatta was in Kenya, and a NO when he was abroad.

The domain is registered to Brian Maiyo, a coder with a preference for Python and WebM.

The site went live on 4th December, and was shut down at 6am on 7th December. During its brief time online, the site got close to 20,000 hits, most of them from mobile devices.

Brian confirmed that the site and domain were intact, but the name server, which is where the domain name is stored, is currently unavailable.

According to Brian, the domain takedown was done without notice.

Following the disappearance of the website, Kenya’s domain registry Kenic experienced an outage on its WhoIs server on Monday, affecting websites using the .co.ke top level domain.

Kenic confirmed that the isuhuruinkenya.co.ke domain is still active, but the site remains unavailable.

However, many sites on the .ke top level domain could not display their WhoIs information, which contains the identity of the website owner.

Kenic has been running a promotion dubbed Najivunia Kuwa .ke (I’m proud to be dot.ke), aimed at increasing uptake of the domain  with discounted rates for new domain registrations.

A Kenic representative speaking to Techweez noted that it only deals with domain registration, but they acknowledged that the website was taken down. The representative further added that the website portrayed the President in a negative context, which is why it was taken down.

Kenyatta’s frequent foreign travels cost the country 2.1 billion shillings in the two years that he has been president. His return from a trip that took him to Malta, France and South Africa triggered a hashtag, #UhuruInKenya, which trended for the better part of Monday.

Owners of Kenyan domains were rightly worried by this move, with some noting that the Government could apply pressure on online activists and take their websites down with no notice. This move has serious implications on Kenya’s Freedom of Expression online, and websites whose content may be deemed subversive could opt to ditch the .ke TLD entirely.

UPDATE: The site has since gone back up.

Eric Mugendi Author

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