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A New Day: Youth Reflections on the Kenyan Election Process

This piece was written using live updates from Kenyans as they voted on August 8th. With the unfortunate luxury of hindsight we now know that violence was not as far removed from this election as all had initially hoped. This piece gives voice to those who strove for a different outcome, and those who will continue to work for the betterment of their country. ______________________________________________________________________________

As Kenyans continue to accept the outcome of the election results in 2017, tension has built up. However, it is not the tension being reported by the international media. Kenyans swore to never go back to what happened in 2007. Never again, will a man slay his neighbour because he does not belong to his tribe, never again will a man rise and torch his neighbour’s house because he does not belong to his community. It’s the kind of tension of the unknown, what kind of leaders will we have in the next five years? Have we made the right choice? Are we gaining ground as a democracy? Every corner represents hope. See the presidential results are now out and life has slowly gone back to normal. Man and woman are being seen opening up their businesses and out there, the sounds of children who are on holiday rent the air. Above all, the words, ‘This is my Kenya,’ are in our hearts.

This was a defining moment for the young people of our country. Like me, most of them were first time voters. It’s a new age where Kenya is embracing technology as part of the voting process. In the run up to the election, there were numerous calls to young people to register as voters. On social media, we saw #VirginVotersKE, a collaboration between Ibua Africa, Siasa Place and Badili Africa to mobilise young people to vote. The Aga Khan University was not left behind. With the guidance of Dr. Alex Awiti, the director, we were able to discuss issues surrounding young people. More than ever, we saw that there was a need to move these conversations from the office and high level meetings to the grassroots. There we saw organisations like the Youth Congress, talking to young people, urging them to join hands.

It is time for change, significantly proven by the increased number of young people getting into politics and being voted in. We see now that leadership does not only belong to the rich, the technocrats and the corrupt unfortunately. Leadership belongs to the people. There we saw young people like the newly elected Member of Parliament for Igembe South, 23 year old John Paul Mwirigi. He traversed his constituency on foot and on a bicycle urging the people to vote for change. It was this determination and zeal that moved the people to back him up. He defeated people who may have been seen to have more machinery to win. This is the kind of change that we as the Kenyan youth believe has started to take place.

I was part of these conversations and I must say I was pleased. We sparked a revolution, we believed that more than anything, it was important for the youth to embrace one of the lines of the preamble of our constitution. It says, ‘We, the people of Kenya, EXERCISING our sovereign and inalienable right to determine the form of governance of our country and having participated fully in the making of this constitution...’ It is a prayer, a pledge to honour our nation.

I listened to young people across the country give their experiences of the election process. Is this what they hoped for? For some, yes while others remain unsure - only the next five years will answer that. Their responses moved me, I am grateful to have had that chance to hear these voices that are a vast representation of the country.

Maureen Nafula, a third time voter from Mombasa County says she had a good experience generally. She is happy that leaders were chosen based on what they could deliver. She was however disappointed that there wasn’t enough civic education from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) but rather most of it came from Non-Governmental Organisations. Most officials in her station were young and they knew what to do. Cynthia Atieno, also from Mombasa echoes Maureen’s sentiments on the fact that leaders were chosen based on what they could deliver. She believes that IEBC was well prepared as the centres were opened in time despite the long queues. She hopes to see more developments in the future.

In Kilifi County where Josephine Adeti and Immaculate Ajiambo voted, they felt the process should be based on the leadership potential of a person. For Ms. Ajiambo however, she was disappointed because some voters were being influenced to pick some leaders based on the fact that they had been given flour or money. There was a shortage of civic education leading to lack of ideological voting.

Brenda from Meru County stated that the process was free and fair. Patrick from Nyandarua County is happy that the process was peaceful. He is satisfied with the fact that those chosen have gotten into power based on their track record. The region is a Jubilee Party stronghold so there is a challenge because those who are considered as ‘outsiders’ do not have the chance to bring in fresh ideas.

From Christine Mithi’s experience in Murang’a County, it appears the process was smooth, free and fair. Mercelita Kariuki voted in the same region but experienced challenges when some of the machines couldn’t recognize voters. She is happy that the elderly and illiterate people were assisted to vote. Lucia Mwaura from Kiambu County applauds the people for choosing leaders who want to develop their nation.

In Uasin Gishu County, Bianca Chepsiror is satisfied with the work that IEBC has done but the delay of announcing the winner of the Presidential Election caused unnecessary tension. Annceta Murugi from Nakuru County had an interesting experience. Besides being a first time voter, she was also a polling clerk. She is glad that she was one of the people who were offering directions.

Gitau Regina from Kajiado County states that the country still has a long way to go in choosing leaders based on what they can deliver and not tribal or clan affiliations. Thus, the people chosen don’t meet his expectations but he is glad that there are more young people who have been chosen. Kericho County reiterates other experiences; with Judith Biegon stating that the IEBC was well prepared. The process was a success in Kakamega County. Makokha Evans is glad that the traditional six piece voting process was changed meaning that leaders now come from different parties.

My conversation ended in Nairobi County, Kenya’s capital. Agnes Arum and Christabelle Ogolla are glad that the process was free and fair. However, they feel that IEBC should address the issues raised to promote peace in the country. Dylan Kibet had a rough experience as centres were opened late and people were being sent from one voting stream to the other. Like most young people mentioned, he chose his leaders based on the agenda they have and believes that leaders can do better.

These are the voices of the Kenyan youth. A representation of what democracy meant to them this particular year. As we go back to our daily routine, we can only hope that each one of us will stand and be counted. The African dream will be born again in our lives. We will teach our children the values of hard work, justice and peace. Like our constitution would say, we the Kenyan people adopt and give this constitution to our future generations. We the Kenyan youth want to develop the aspects of good citizenship and it can only begin when we understand why we voted, why we give power to certain individuals. Only then can we ‘recognise the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law.’

Photo cred: CBC News

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