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.
Thrice in my life have I cast a vote for my favourite presidential candidate, Odinga II Amolo Odinga. Thrice in my life my vote has not counted, neither has my voice been heard.
The first time I voted was in 2007, then a tall, wiry lad, a freshman at the University of Nairobi. Victory was snatched from Odinga in the most callous way. When we slept, our presidential candidate was leading by more than a million votes. When we woke up, his closest rival, the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki had made a dazzling comeback that baffled all Kenyans. Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in at night, prompting widespread violence that killed 1,200 people and displaced 600,000.
Odinga II’s supporters were hurt and had to settle for a coalition government where they played second fiddle, with their leader constantly being ridiculed.