KENYA ELECTION – to represent or self-enrich

To represent or self-enrich

August 2nd 2022 – Politics or a Racket? 

Kenya is a country waiting – as the 2022 election looms ever closer.

A key part of our mission for heading to the East African country was to act as short term observers for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). It’s a body that oversees and monitors the election process.

We’d been in the country around two weeks, when we got our first real taste of the power of the process. We visited a rally held by the party of current deputy president and presidential hopeful William Ruto.

The gathering of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) was  in the small roadside town of Tezo, on the Malindi-Mombasa highway in Kilifi County. Following the distant noise of loud music and cheering we came to a clearing in the forest to meet local IEBC representative Fridah Santa.

She introduced us to the senate candidate for the town as well as Kilifi North’s MP Owen Baya. The lecturer turned lawmaker, had arrived in a large blacked out Toyota Land Cruiser to speak to a crowd of a few hundred – a ‘’small turnout’’ according to Fridah.

At 4 o’clock the crowd mainly consisted of women and children, as the men of the town were mostly working – but slowly they began to trickle in and join the throng.

It may be more profitable for them to be here than to work.

Stable employment is difficult to find and easy money can be made attending the rallies or helping to organise them. Individuals earn anything from 50 KES (less than 40p) to 300KES. What you pay in return for the small earnings, you pay with your vote.

We’re told the practice is common during Kenya’s electoral periods. Politicians from all parties seem happy to part with cash, alcohol and gifts. In return they expect support.

We heard reports that some campaigns on polling day may go as far as to send alcohol to opposition strongholds. An inebriated voter is less likely to use his vote than a sober one!

We experienced the practice of cash-for-votes first-hand. Toward the end of the rally we were led away early. It was reported to us later that Baya had joked in Swahili that he would not give out any money in front of ‘muzungu’ observers.

‘Vote buying’ seems accepted in Kenya. It raises integrity concerns, of course. Those standing to gain being the politicians seeking power. And the contrast between an elected representative earning a minimum salary of £33,000 a year compared to a under-educated motorbike (boda-boda) rider earning less than £10 a day highlights who the winners are.

The political landscape consists of business owners, landlords and political dynasties. And it is not uncommon to self-enrich from devolved and loosely overseen government funds.

According to Oxfam, Kenya has one of the fastest growing super rich classes in the world. It is predicted that by 2033 there will be an extra 7,500 millionaires. Many see politics as a means of of reaching their ranks.

But while the number of super-rich grows in Kenya it seems unlikely  the gap between rich and poor will narrow.

 

OS 2/8/22

 

 

 

 

 

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