Tag Archives: Election

Playing a Dirty Game

As the days progress in the campaigning period here in Kenya my observations have left me with a range of opposing emotions. For me, election time in Canada is usually accompanied by a healthy dose of optimism and joy, primarily because I love debating with people about issues that I am passionate about. Election time is a season of change and renewal; it is a chance for me to give my input on how my country (which I love dearly) is run. Some people allow themselves to be consumed by cynicism, painting politicians as liars while feeling like their singular vote has no impact on the overall outcome. The true value of their single vote is lost in this cynicism and I believe that this type of feeling has a deteriorating effect on our democratic system.
Here in Kenya, I have felt a feeling of cynicism creeping in, albeit for different reasons. I have witnessed blatant lying and a despicable amount of capitalization on the poverty that holds the vast majority of the people here in the Cherangany region.
I don’t know if there has ever been a politician that has snow white hands, I think the game necessitates at least some dirty play but the lying that goes on here is astounding. It makes our attack ads in Canada seem pretty mild mannered. I will give you an example…Wesley and Tarah’s foundation, the Kenyan Kids Foundation has donated the first ever ambulance for the Cherangany region. (it delivered the first patient to hospital this week) Now, I will grant you that the timing of the ambulance’s arrival was not a mistake, accessible healthcare is a pillar of Wesley’s social platform and this was a tangible example of his commitment for potential voters. That being said, it is something that the region sorely needed, even if it is being used for political gain. Now here is the lie; the main opponent, Joseph Kutuny has begun telling people at every campaign stop that the ambulance is not really an ambulance but a van that Wesley has merely rented for the duration of the campaign and it will disappear following the election. Given how easily the “mob” can be swayed here, it comes down to how much people believe the individual and now Wesley has to spend time at every stop assuring people that the ambulance is not rented and is indeed here in the Cherangany to stay. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to my readers, but this is just one example of many lies that are told on a daily basis. There is absolutely no honour or respect between candidates here. Political opponents will often disagree with each other, they may even strongly dislike each other, but to be suitable for public office, you need to have at least a strand of moral fibre that keeps you from pulling stunts like this.
Far worse than the lying is the bribery that seems to be commonplace in Kenyan politics. Kenya recently passed a new constitution that outlawed bribery but it seems like this has been largely ignored. People here try to justify it to me, saying that it is cultural, they use the phrase “this is Kenya or this is Africa”. Muzungus wade into dangerous waters when they start criticising cultural norms but I have a difficult time with this one. Bribery takes advantage of the poverty people are stuck in, giving them a small sum of money that does nothing to change their economic situation yet they are so desperate for anything. On the flip side, influential people extort candidates for their support by demanding payment in return for public loyalty. Some of the bribery is flagrant …earlier this week, Wesley’s opponent had people form a line at a campaign stop so they could distribute 50ksh (about 50 cents CDN) to each person attending. Other examples are a little murky. Every morning people line up at Wesley’s family compound asking for help with various ailments (school fees, hospital bills, etc.) or at least food. If he helps them is this a bribe? My moral compass points towards yes although since I am biased and close to the situation at least the money is being used for something constructive.
Earlier this week I played a round of golf and enjoyed some good conversation at the Kitale Club in Kitale Town. When our conversation turned to the topic of bribery; I was the only one to object at all to the practice so maybe I should accept that this is cultural and it is not up to me to judge what goes on. I will have a tough time doing so however. In this conversation I learned that the estimated cost of this election when bribes are factored in will top 5 billion, not million, BILLION USD.
Every time I drive through a town centre or rural area I am forced to see poverty. I see young people desperate to find non-existent jobs, mothers trying to care for a sick child when they have no money for hospital fees, or young teens on the street because their family cannot afford to pay their secondary school fees. Once again, the rich political class has failed the very people they are supposed to serve. Their hunger for power and money blinds them to the real problems going on right in their backyard.

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