Kenyans, best of luck as you vote; pick a good one for EAC meetings

Saturday August 06 2022
Kenya election presidential candidates

Kenya 2020 elections: Presidential candidates, from left, Raila Odinga, George Wajackoyah, William Ruto and David Mwaure Waihiga. PHOTOS | NMG


Well, I can’t think of many things more awkward than trying to say something meaningful upon the occasion of another General Election in Kenya. “Best of luck in your endeavours” doesn’t strike the right note, even if the sentiment is sincere.

Let me lead with sincerity. At the beginning of the year, towards April, I began what I thought would be a simple quest to research and form opinions on the Kenyan political situation leading up to the election.

I started at home with the handful of Tanzanians who have lived in Kenya and thus have an insight into their politics.

Unfortunately, their experiences and knowledge are somewhat outdated, and while I got some context of the pre-Uhuru era, that was it. I did pick up from them, however, that Kenyan politics is… “unique.”

Two main options

So I moved on out to do some reading around the subject and got a bit of a fright. The two main options when it came to getting a handle on Kenyan politics were either academic analyses of past elections, which were not really what I was hoping for, and current affairs commentary as well as news.


So much news. Reams and reams of news. As much as I sought the cool and calm voices of impartiality — which I know must be out there — I got bogged down by an unexpected obsession with the former governor of Nairobi.

Colourful politicians are the problem, you see. I am used to my Tanzanians, and let me tell you that they are 99 percent staid.

Occasionally, one will do something a bit unusual, like a handstand during the Budget session, but even this handful of quirky individuals cannot really liven up the pool of extremely normal people that make up our political sphere. Perhaps they save the juice for their personal lives and, to be fair, we just don’t care about public figures’ personal lives all that much.

So you can imagine how unprepared I was for the onslaught of character-driven stories in Kenyan politics. I got mesmerised. I had to stop that for my own sake lest I go down the rabbit holes!

Having failed there, I sent out a desperate appeal on a few platforms about two months ago straight up asking Kenyans if they could explain Kenyan politics to me. To my relief, I finally got answers.

The first one was that I had to follow the money. The second one was that nobody would be able to explain Kenyan politics to me per se.

Thank goodness, the exercise was proving exhausting.

In truth, the far more interesting question is, “so, how are the citizens of Kenya faring in the lead-up to a regime change?”

See how inadequate the language of political science is already?

I don’t know if there will be a regime change per se; Tanzania has had the same party in power forever, so we just settled on calling consecutive heads of state by their number to acknowledge that the so-called “change” wasn’t really change so much as evolution perhaps.

In Kenya, there is a boggling mix of heredity, ethnicity and class going on, in addition to how every election brings a new crop of political parties and alliances, even if some of the faces have remained the same since the dawn of the republic!

My trust, as always, rests with the people. The voters know what they will be doing come voting day and why they are doing it. Those who choose not to vote will also know why, although I truly hope that this is a very small minority because, whatever the quality of an election may be, exercising one’s right to vote is a fundamental cornerstone of one’s citizenship in a democracy. Most importantly, I hope that the voters will vote freely and safely in an atmosphere of peace.

Legalisation of marijuana

What are they voting for? This remains to be seen. As far as I know there is William Ruto, there is Raila Odinga, and there is a gentleman farmer who has captured the attention of Kenyans by advocating the legalisation of marijuana and its cultivation as a cash crop, among other things.

George Wajackoyah is by far the most interesting of the candidates, perhaps a little too interesting, in fact. A safe bet for voters who want to protest vote or break the tie between the two main opponents, Wajackoyah is attractive so long as he does not get voted in by accident, as happened with Brexit in the UK.

Whatever you do, remember: we are now seven of us in the EAC. Who do you want representing Kenya in those meetings, eh? Please be responsible.

As a region, we have been with Kenya through election after election, some bloodier than others. We remain at Kenya’s side as citizens vote on August 9 and hope for good things: for stability, fairness, safety for the citizens and overall wellbeing.

Tied as we are to one another, and old friends and rivals as siblings should be, of course, I am invested in Kenya’s elections from next door.

Thus, let me end where I began and say: Best of luck in your endeavours. It is, after all, the only right and sincere thing I have to offer as you go to the polls.

Stay well, stay safe.

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]