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Humour and humility: a reflection on the role of social media in the Kenyan elections

Tuesday, the 8th of August saw hopeful youth walk into polling stations to voice their choices at the ballot box. They braved the morning cold and long queues, some skipping breakfast. Some spent the previous night at the polling stations, tirelessly working as clerks to set the stage ready for an election they all hoped would be flawless, free and fair. The process was largely peaceful throughout the country, even in areas where voting went late into the night. The Election Day had to be one of the days social media use was at its peak. First-time voters were all over social media, displaying their inked fingers and asserting their very important role in the election. On that day, a celebrity, Githeri-man, was born, unifying the people of Kenya. Githeri (succotash) is a popular dish in Kenya. Martin Kamotho, now a household name, was spotted queuing with the meal in a plastic bag. Even as he trended and graced almost every meme in the country, he unified Kenyans through humour and represented a majority of Kenyans who went above and beyond to make that single vote count. Reflecting on the elections, one can’t help but be proud of the Kenyan youth. Albeit this praise would be regarded premature considering the presidential election petition is currently at the courts. Still, the Kenyan youth have played a great role in the maintenance of peace even in the face of the generally flawed electoral process. This was made possible with the slogan, ’TUSIBLEED NDIO WALEAD’ which translates to, ’’We should not bleed so that they lead.’’ This is not to say that they cowardly cowered in silence where they felt the process was flawed. Those brave enough took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations only to be met by police brutality, a move that has a cast a dark cloud on the face of the police force with innocent children and adults dying by their hands. Days spent awaiting the announcement of the presidential-elect were riddled with a lot of humour with unemployed youth proclaiming themselves as political analysts and tallying officers from the comfort of their homes. Each significant result awoke a different reaction as time went by. The electoral commission’s CEO, Mr. Ezra Chiloba, became the most searched result on Google. The youthful boss was the subject of every female discussion. Easy on the eyes and great to listen to, he won the interest of young Kenyan women who christened him Chilobae. So great was the obsession that one commissioner had to announce to the entire nation that he is happily married. One question that grimly hung in the air during the entire electoral process, even as the winner of the elections was announced, was the process’ credibility. Despite some Kenyans taking to the streets, with their own good reasons, the question is yet to be answered. The discrepancies and inconsistencies were countless, raising eyebrows all over and creating a sense of loss of faith in the electoral commission. Still, Kenyans, youth especially, are graceful sports in every situation. Supporters of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who was regarded as Joshua that would lead them into Canaan, led the humour train.

"We can now unpack. The trip to Canaan has been postponed," some posted after his loss was confirmed. For days, they laughed and maintained peace, even as they were in constant limbo after their preferred candidate said he would not concede. Days later, when Raila addressed the nation and referred to the president and his deputy as computer-generated chicks, he gave Kenyan youth even more fodder for jokes and memes. When he declared he was going to take up the case with the Supreme Court and filed a 9000 paged petition - with 25000 pages worth of evidence - he once again restored the average Kenyan’s faith in the judiciary. Even as the country sits at the edge of its seat awaiting the ruling, it is important to note the growth and maturity in Kenyan youth. Their behavior and rationality during the process has been commendable. Even at a time doubt in the system was so prevalent, the youth did not pick up stones or machetes. Instead, they resorted to online activism for justice and preaching for peace. Doubtless, there has been talk of most youth losing faith in the process and vowing not vote in the election. Still, there is cause to celebrate. There are new faces in the national assembly, some very youthful faces. That is the same case when you look at some senators, governors and generally across the board.

The youth have found their voice and are strongly becoming leaders of today as opposed to abiding to the same old ‘leaders of tomorrow’ narrative.

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