Will history repeat itself in Kenya's upcoming Elections?

Last year was an exciting year for many nations, as General Elections took place in different continents from the United States of America to Sierra Leone, Ghana to Japan, France, Serbia, Netherlands, Armenia as well as elections of transitional governments in Libya and Egypt. However, this year, all attention is directed to Kenya.

Having visited Kenya twice myself, I’ve fallen in love with the country, the culture and the people. The story started even from the airport when I was taking my visa and the officer said “shukran”! I thought maybe he was trying to speak my language as he saw that I am from Tunisia. But, within a few hours of being in Kenya, I heard even more Arabic-sounding words, like “marhaba”, “Ahsante”, “sabah al kheer”.  I found out that Swahili, the official language of Kenya, is actually derived from Arabic, my mother tongue!  Since then, my stay in Nairobi became a continuous learning journey. I was walking in the street and saw “smoking zones”. In fact, smoking is actually prohibited in public and workplaces except in those special designated smoking areas. That was really a surprise but my bigger surprise was when I searched on the net for a picture of these smoking areas to post it and found none!! Maybe the world doesn’t want to show the civilized Africa; more civilized actually than any “first world” country. I heard later that the law even prohibits virtually all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products following this smoke-free legislation.

On another day, I came back from the UN headquarters to downtown in a Matatu (shared taxi) and by coincidence I met the assistant to the Vice President. Yes, he was in the same Matatu! He wasn’t in a Mercedes and nor did he even have a chauffeur. Still, my most unforgettable moment in Nairobi was my visit to the largest urban slum in Africa, ‘Kibera”.  I saw then why it’s called “extreme poverty” and also realized how hard to have elections in a country with 42 tribes. Recalling Kenya’s 2007 elections, I understand why people are suspicious about these elections. Indeed, the election preliminaries for various political parties were held last month, ending in violence in Kibera and other parts of Kenya with people claiming that their candidates were denied the certificate.

Last week, I received an unexpected email from the International Youth Council saying that the Annual African Youth Assembly that I was meant to be attending in two weeks is postponed due to the political situation in Kenya. The email stated “a lot of countries have issued travel warnings for Kenya for the time period of the conference”.  However, talking to my Kenyan friends through social media, I was surprised that most of them remain optimistic about these elections.

Joshua Ogure, a 32 years old blogger at Map Kibera Trust, says,“I think the elections will be fine this time, though there is a lot of tribalism”. Josh thinks that the government has done a lot to prevent any violence by implementing the new constitution that “controls political parties, elections act and also police reforms and judiciary”. He believes the events of 2007 will never happen again and “even if there will be some violence it cannot be as bad as 2007″. However, after the violence of last month Josh states: “there was no life lost but properties were damaged, it’s so sad that we cannot exercise transparency”.

Rose Wachuka, a 25 young lawyer working at the Supreme Court states some legislative facts for the upcoming elections:
“Kenyans will, for the first time vote for the President and his running mate, who then will be the Vice President. They will also vote for representatives to the two houses, the National Assembly and the Senate in addition to their local representatives at the County level”.

 She also stresses that various contenders are calling upon Kenyans to embrace peace.
“There is a tension but also a lot of peace campaigns across the country… optimism is what is keeping Kenyans afloat”, Rose affirms.
Moreover, women are actively campaigning for the reserved women representative seats and also engaged in party politics.
“The Constitution reserves 47 seats for women in the National Assembly and 16 seats in the Senate. It establishes a principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender. This principle should be enacted within five years since the promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010.”
Rose is however disappointed by female attitude to these opportunities:
“These are hard quotas set by the Constitution.  It will be interesting to note that women sometimes are not playing it with dignity as maligning strategies are still manifest in women representative campaigns, something she finds heartbreaking. 
She adds: “Women should treat their opponents with respect and introduce a sane culture of politics. Isn’t this what women have been known to do? They emphasize more on performance and not hooliganism?”

Today, fears, tension and clashes are intensifying on Kenyan streets, but a brief comparative observation with the previous violent elections will lead us to three main positive aspirations for Kenya’s March elections. First of all, the elections are taking place in March not in December as in previous years. The day of the elections will also be a working day and within the school term, unlike those held in 2007.

Also, in August 2010; Kenyans overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, which decreed that the elections be managed and supervised by an independent electoral body and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Beyond this, women and young people are more involved than ever before. Political parties will nominate 16 female representatives to the Senate, double the figure of 2007. Besides, during the last five years, Kenya hosted multiple international events and projects that focused on youth involvement in the economic, social and political debate.

I think if we only have more Kenyans who believed, like Rose, that they owe it to themselves and Kenya as a whole “to be part of its future and its governance”, the country will peacefully move forward. Rose declares: “My vote is my voice and I intend to use it.  I am a registered voter and I will vote with conscience and for policy, not for tribe or popularity”.

This article was published on the International Political forum : http://internationalpoliticalforum.com/kenya-elections-2013/

and republished on Safe World for Women http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/rights-defenders/rd-africa/3730-kenyan-elections.html


A very interesting and a nice blog.
Greatings from Portugal



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