In short: A tweet purporting to be from Martha Karua in support of a fake Kenyan lawyer went viral and was even briefly reported as genuine by a leading newspaper. But the tweet came from a parody X account.
It is in this context that a tweet was posted on an X account (previously Twitter) that appeared to belong to opposition figure Martha Karua. She was Raila Odinga’s running mate in the 2022 presidential elections.
The 13 October 2023 tweet included Mwenda’s photo and read: “I will make sure this young man, Brian Mwenda, realizes his dream of becoming a real lawyer. I will sponsor his education to whatever level he desires. His confidence is unmatched.”
The tweet’s content was shared in various forms on other social media platforms, including here, here and here. The Star, one of Kenya's leading newspapers, also published an online article linking the quote to Karua, herself a lawyer.
The social media posts were viewed over 500,000 times and received a great deal of engagement.
Mwenda had presented himself as a lawyer and taken on clients. He had even been filmed on television arguing cases in court. On 12 October, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) issued notices saying Mwenda was masquerading as an attorney and was not a high court advocate.
It was revealed that he had taken over the LSK account of a real lawyer whose first two names were similar to his own. He had unsuccessfully tried to apply for a practising certificate on the LSK portal. It was also reported that he was a second year criminology student.
The Mwenda case gained widespread attention globally. It was claimed that he had handled 26 cases and won them all. This led to him gaining popularity on social media. A number of prominent figures publicly supported him, including Kenyan trade union chief Francis Atwoli and former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko.
The claim of his 26 court wins has been denied by Eric Theuri, president of the LSK, who said there was no factual basis for the claim. The director of public prosecutions later issued a press statement calling for the investigation of Mwenda and others involved in similar cases of impersonating lawyers.
But did Karua really express her admiration for the fake lawyer and promise to support his dream of becoming a real lawyer? We checked.
Parody ‘fan’ account
The X account that posted the tweet is a parody account, calling itself as a fan account. It mimics Martha Karua's real page, with the only difference being the account description and a slightly different handle. Karua also responded to the post by the Star on X, demanding an apology from the paper for falsely linking the quote to her in their article. The paper then removed the misleading article.
Karua’s official X handle is @MarthaKarua and has over 1.6 million followers, while the parody account has less than 3,000 followers.
With X's lenient account verification policy, which allows users to pay a subscription fee for a blue tick on their profile, it's important to carefully check the sources of information on social media.
The claim that Martha Karua publicly expressed admiration for the fake lawyer and promised to support his dream of becoming a real lawyer is false.
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