Learning From Frank Sinatra, Kenya, And Elections 2017

A person I know once said that “ukitaka kusomea siasa waangalie Wakenya. Utasoma kisomo kisicho na mwisho,” which means that anyone that would like to be a student of politics should watch the political scene in Kenya, they would gain unending knowledge. I was young(er) then and, like many people, I wanted nothing to do with politics because, for me, that saying that “the more things change the more they remain the same,” was beginning to unfold and I was simply fed up with the system and the status quo. However, the blindfold fell off my eyes a while back and it dawned on me that what that Rwandan brother of mine was on about.

Now I know that in my country we eat, drink, and sleep politics. The end of an election is simply the beginning of preparation for the next one. Now we have our eyes set on 2022 and decisions have already been made whether or not to vote when D day comes. The electorate has begun to scout for candidates that will run in the next election and have gone ahead in scrutinizing the chances that each one has to either win or lose. Before we teleport five years ahead of our time now, let us come back to the most recent one, the long prepared for, long awaited and long anticipated August 8th election.

The entire election period revealed the thorn in our side as a country, mistrust. The lack of faith that exists in our own systems is quite something. Those mandated to run the election in a transparent, free, and fair manner had their records tainted with alleged misdoings. Then one of the main competitors went on to try and suggest that the law, as is, should take a backseat and final results should stem from a central point; a move that only raised eyebrows, why should that be done when the law clearly stipulates otherwise? That hurdle was jumped, then came the next one. Ballot papers were already being printed by a company that was chosen in a manner known to those that chose it and for reasons known only to them. Again there was an insistence on that company and no other, which again brought up that question, “why.”

As a child of taxpaying parents and a sister to a tax paying brother, all I see is money that would have constituted part of my allowance spent importing ballot papers; I mean surely we can print paper; bringing in other people to earn huge salaries while many common men grapple with how far out of reach their daily bread continues to become and the very many different ways in which that money could have been spent to inch us closer towards the achievement of our Vision 2030 on which the clock is quickly ticking. The mistrust continued when it came to counting the votes and transmission of results. The then opposition (then, because I am not sure of the status quo now) alleged cooking of numbers based on information from an insider; whether or not that is true,  we may never know. Thanks to mistrust, we had to have international observers monitor the goings on of the election.

Compare this with the election held in Britain almost two months ago. Prime Minister Theresa May called for an election in April, it was held in June and now the British are back to either worrying about or happily waiting for, Britain to officially leave the European Union. Here, in my country, many have been indoors since they cast their votes, eyes glued to their television screens or ears keen on the radio simply waiting. The media, which is arguably one of the most vibrant on the continent, has taken a complete about turn and is singing and dancing to a completely different tune from the one it followed during the journey to August 8th. Local media only covered areas considered the incoming government’s strongholds, showing celebrations and jubilation and completely blacked out the (then) opposition’s strongholds where police were alleged to be raining bullets on demonstrators, going even further to raid homes. I suppose after complaints on social media, which thankfully has not been shut down, but is under a lot of scrutiny, and the media began covering the areas where violence was reported.

The response has been the arrest of journalists that attempt to shed light on the same and the denial from the top that people have died at the hands of the police. Statements such as “we are not aware”, “the international media are simply being alarmists” and “the media needs to report the truth” are what dominate outlets. What is even worse is that the President elect is nowhere to be seen and it has been left to the church and citizens to keep calling for peace. I hope this is a lesson to the country that it needs to learn how to pick itself up and move on and that the international community has bigger fish to fry, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, and many other countries.

Frank Sinatra says to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again and so aluta continua.

Hawa Gaya