No one forced you to stand in those queues. You did it yourself. You were brothers on those queues, you were sisters on those queues, and mothers, and fathers, sons and daughters. You queued to vote. There you were in the company of strangers with joy leaping out of your throat and wrapping itself around everybody. Your wide open mouth discharged flocks of twittering sunbirds ready to feast on the fragrant nectar of your laughter. You forgot the lesson your mother taught you, never open your heart to strangers. Now see; these strangers are as familiar as family.
I remember feeling like a non-Kenyan for the first time in my life on that dark night Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the re-elected president, a decision that has since been nullified in a historic Supreme Court ruling. The court found the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the body charged with conducting elections, guilty of committing what it termed “illegalities and irregularities” that tainted the entire electoral process.
The 2017 polls were Kenya’s second elections since the promulgation of the country’s new constitution in August 2010. They attracted a total of 11,330 candidates (among them eight presidential candidates), most sponsored by various political parties, but also 3,752 independent candidates; all of whom were battling for 1,882 available elective positions. It was survival for the richest as politicians criss-crossed various towns across Kenya in attempt to woo voters; some were calling for a six piece voting, popularly referred to as “Suti”, while others threw in slogans such as “Tano Tena”, “Tano Fresh,” and “Mambo Yabadilika” as they went on a charm offensive.
There is a running joke on Kenyan social media platforms this week, variations of “Politicians sasa watoe posters, waganga wanataka kurudisha zao.” I laugh, I retweet, especially because the variation I come across features the woman-beating former governor Evans Kidero. It is that time in the political cycle when our lives are wallpapered with brightly-coloured but quickly-fading promises, some of which will survive, just barely, until the next election.
A Sense of Where We Are’ is a series of brief notes and reflections from people in and close to the Enkare family about the 2017 elections in Kenya. When reading these notes, we ask you for two things: i) attention and ii) expansiveness. If prayer is ‘unmixed attention,’ then pray about what it means to be Kenyan today; pray about the lives that have been stolen; pray about the dreams have been deferred to build this nation, and the spirit in which it was done; pray about the promises made to our grandparents; and pray about the hopes, shared and private, that we hold in our hearts. Pay attention. This is our true and proper work. Come to these reflections with large-heartedness, with a willingness to stretch for your fellow humans, with trust that all life is worth preserving, and that the work required to do so is also worth the investment.