After many hours spent in queues trying to vote, clenching cheeks in unison, and shaking fists at the IEBC, Kenyans finally got a new president. The opposition did not accept this result. Kenyans however, did, as some celebrated, some waited for the court hearings and the rest were just happy to be back at work. We did what we did peacefully and force fed
foreign journalists naysayers their own feet.
I’m in that group that’s just happy to be at work because I believe the true victor was not a person.
It was the people.
I’m not particularly fond of politics and even less so of politicians.
When I was about 8 years old, and our President’s name was three letters long, Aristotle told me “Man, by nature, is a political animal.” What I learned in the years following that is that politicians are equal part “political” and “animal”. They want to govern and lead and they still act like hyenas in a pack or vultures in a wake. They lie their way into office and spend their tenure feasting on the corpses they created while clawing their way to the top of their little hierarchies.
They do not bring about change.
Change comes from the people. You, him, her, those guys over there and maybe even me. I believed this as much then as I do now.
So when these elections initially came about last year, I was not interested in voting. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in democracy and all that. But when I have to pick from a few genocide suspects, people who’ve been in government longer than I’ve been alive, people who’re just trying to prove a point by running and losing, and the richest Kenyan alive (who also happened to be the son of our first president), I have many a reason not to believe that my vote would matter.
Then there was that issue of that thing that happened the last time we went to the polls….
I’m sure it weighed heavily on everyone’s mind and it was hard to say if we really had healed from it. Was their residual bile? Pent up aggression? Or had we learned that fighting for someone who won’t fight for you is counter-intuitive?
I ended up registering and voting though.
What changed was not that IEBC somehow managed to convince me the elections would be “Free and Fair.” It wasn’t because any particular candidate convinced me that 1. They could be president if I voted for them and 2. That they would then lead this country into prosperity.
What changed my mind is the people. Watching Kenyans OWN Kenya. It wasn’t about the 8 guys and gal behind the podiums during debates or the marketing spend on t-shirts, posters, TV ads and sub-par designers. People were taking the country back in every small way they could.
People were championing peace and progress. People were talking about issues and laws. The Constitution was being brought up more confidently. And people were even open to voting on principle and issues rather than tribe and parties. Yes, it was a small number of people, but it is a growing population indicative of the spark of a resurgence of the revolutionary spirit we so need.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people trying to decide who should be president in a fair election. I maintain that anyone who thinks any candidate with more than 100,000 votes did not rig is naive. Anyone who thinks individuals who get paid pennies to count votes all night cannot be bought for a few notes is silly. And anyone who expects everything to go perfectly and according to plan – especially with regards to technology – is being extremely short sighted and antagonizing people for no reason.
Let’s celebrate what we do have: a people aligned behind the the growth and success of their country. Let’s celebrate what who’s really won. Not the crooked politicians (and they all are) who now get to sit in government offices. Not the President-Elect who sees his father on the currency he hoards in such astounding amounts. Let’s celebrate the people that voted for Kenya before voting for Kenyan Politicians. They did so by choosing peace without having to be asked to, choosing unity regardless of their beliefs and doing so publicly without shame. And when they were alone in that booth, they put aside their personal bile, rested their individual biases, ignored potential incitements and voted as best they could. More impressive is that after the votes and after the rallies, people weren’t just ODM and TNA, or Martha vs Kenneth. They were Kenyans. Together.
As for the actual outcome, it’s a first step. A sober step. We will learn a lot between now and 2017 about the consequences of our actions. Those learnings coupled with our current attitudes can only yield progress when we next step into the voting booth; that we may keep voting for the country and its people rather than the politicians and their bullshit.
I salute you all, Kenyans not only for turning out in your numbers, but for turning a challenging time for the people into a historic moment for the country.