Tomorrow, Kenyans will cast their votes.
There has been a collective holding of breath this whole year. The departures section of JKIA has seen unprecedent rise in activity as foreign nationals do what foreign nationals do best when they sense even the slightest hint of unrest in an African country.
For Kenyans, the general feeling has been ‘let’s wait and see’. A friend who works for an international press bureau wearily tells me that some of her non-Kenyan colleagues are anticipating mayhem with barely concealed excitement, like hyenas sniffing the air for blood. For Kaki, my go to drapery guy, it’s time to “funga kazi”, he is not going on his annual leave, just taking some time off, exercising some caution because ” hatujui itakuwaje” (We don’t know how it will go).
While the last closely contested election in 2007 were characterised by big budget television adverts and radio jingles that helped stir supporters into a frenzy, this years elections have worked in favour of outdoor advertisers, even MCA’s have billboards. Some are so professionally done, outchea looking like Nivea ads, while others with passport style pictures of forlorn looking candidates, would pass for obituaries of a dearly beloved.
Most people are expecting to be surprised by this election, there is a general expectation that the losers will not acquiesce just like that. That there may be surprise wins from candidates tainted by corruption and scandal who, as little back as five years ago, would never have dreamed of running for the posts they are gunning for now.
Will things go back to normal after the dust settles? Will Nakumatt declare bankruptcy and finally give its customers back their loyalty points? Will Boniface Mwangi win the Starehe seat and maybe give hope to similar candidates who shied away from politics because of the entrenched “buying votes system”. Will Miguna Miguna clinch his seat and take over the Nairobi governership with gusto, dispensing insults with the same quickness that Kidero dispensed slaps? Will there be more women senators and governors this time round instead of the patronising Women’s Rep post that relegates them to the sidelines? Will there be more effort put into national cohesion instead of just infrastructure?
“What I fear for is tisa-nane” (August 9), a US based Kenyan friend tells me. He covered the elections during 2007 and has not forgotten how bleak Kenya’s future seemed.
I love my country but I am aso keenly aware that it was a matter of not being in the wrong place at the wrong time that saw some of us fare better during the post election violence of 2007. My classmate Patrick* escaped death twice in 2007. The first time, his landlady in Eldoret where he was a campus student, convinced he was a Kamba and not Luhya (thanks to his light skin and ambiguous last name), unwittingly saved him and his brother from the Mungiki going door to door.
The second time, was the opposite, his light skin and stature convinced attackers who had stopped their car on the Eldoret -Nakuru highway that he was Kikuyu and it was only the intervention of an old man who knew them both that saved their lives.
“They had already poured Kerosene into the car” he recalls. He tells me the story in a matter of fact way, bearing no ill will towards either group of attackers.
To me Patrick is as Kenyan as they come, hard-working, friendly, has had some hard knocks but still sees a reason to smile and have a hope for the future.
As Kenyans endorse the “lets pray for peace” messages, these are the stories we should remember not to forget, especially those who were not as lucky. We have been to the precipice once before, we cannot afford to hang on that ledge again.
*name changed to protect identity