Nairobi, Kenya. Six days to the national elections. There is a cloud of fear and dread casting a dark shadow over the whole country. Murky and sticky shadows swirl into every household keeping people awake with worry at night trying to plan the next move. The future is uncertain. You wake up with a spinning head, heavy to lift, and continue with the ‘normal’ day as you imagine likely scenarios. The ominous dark cloud leaks brown poisonous fumes that every citizen’s face reflects as they drag themselves through the day, as THE day draws closer.
Questions abound in one’s mind. Should I remain in Nairobi to vote? To go early to shaggz where it will be safer? How long to stay? Work must go on, mouths must be fed. To vote and then go despite hiked fares? Is there even any point in voting? Recent happenings increasingly point towards an UNfair and NOT free election. What if things go badly, what’s the backup plan? Flee to where? Do I have enough food at home just in case ?
An election should be an exciting time when citizens get to exercise their right to choose good leaders and participate in the democracy of their free country, not fear for their lives and have to run off to hide in their tribal homelands for safety!
The fear in the air is tangible – it has gradually taken deep root. Kenya has topped the entire continent of Africa in numbers of extra-judicial killings by police (the forces deemed to protect us are those used to oppress us), according to Amnesty International’s most recent report. Just over a year ago when human rights lawyer Willie Kimani was killed in cold blood along with his client and driver, hundreds of Kenyans came out to the streets in protest of all extra-judicial killings, standing together as a strong voice demanding justice.
The day before yesterday, Kenyans found out that the IEBC’s (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) ICT Manager, Chris Msando, who had set up the computerised voting system, was brutally murdered. Sound familiar? Chilling. This man had a family, a life, like every person that has been killed without reason. And his death has sinister implications.
Yesterday, there was a march organized to protest the killing of Chris Msando, show solidarity with the IEBC, and demand the Inspector General to speed up investigations. Guess how many people showed up? Barely 20. The protesters were around equal in number to the journalists flocking around with their cameras. Kenyans are shocked to the core about recent happenings, but have become too afraid to show up, to speak out. The risks are too high. If they killed and tortured Msando, shamelessly and blatantly, nobody is safe. And we are all aware of the trucks, tear gas and guns that have been brought in to equip the police our oppressors, oops I means our protectors, to stem any mass action after the election.
Would these fearful measures of arming up really be necessary if Kenyans were assured a free and fair election? If issues rather than ethnicity were at the core of political campaigns? If we were all secure in the knowledge that the results announced would truly reflect our votes cast? History has taught us to be highly suspicious, as have recent events in the lead up to elections (ballot paper procurement scandal, fake news and accusations, and now the murder of the man who was trying to guarantee us a fool-proof voting system). Were we all convinced of the authenticity of the electoral process, there would be no need for the state to prepare for war against its citizens!
This morning I woke up thinking of people. People here in Kenya, people in Syria, people in Germany. Happy people, scared people; sad people, excited people; comfortable people, struggling people. People of the past and people of the future. Cycles of time, of life and death, of good times and bad.
All I can say to my fellow Kenyans is, time is rolling forward and we can’t stop it. The time will come and pass. Consequences will come and we will live (hopefully) through them. We are not in control. It’s a dark and scary time, so hold close your loved ones and hope for the best. Do what you need to to stay safe, but also remember that your neighbour, of whatever tribe or background or political viewpoint, is also a person with a heart and a story, their own family and their own struggle. Even if you disagree, remember they are not the true enemy. Meanwhile, as a citizen and member of the larger Kenyan community, we must stand together for justice. United we are strong.
We Kenyans are not an aggressive people. We earnestly, sincerely, from the bottom of our hearts, want peace. We do not want to fight each other! We have deep love and concern for our fellows. But our rights have been slowly taken away. Each day we face abuse, whether in the form of poverty, struggle, insecurity, violence, killings, lack of freedom, blatant theft of funds that were meant to improve our lives. All we ask for, all we beg for, with pleading and bleeding hearts full of fear and love, is justice. Respect for us as fellow humans who also deserve the same as you do. Our rights – which include the right to exist peacefully without fear. And now, prostrated on our knees, we beg for a fair election. Is it too much to ask?
Today it is raining. I board a piki piki to rush to an appointment. As the gentle tears of the Sky Mother roll from dark clouds through thick air and wash my slender body, I gaze up with gratitude. These are tears of sorrow, of worry and of care. Mother Nature has seen it all over the millennia, and continues to provide for her wayward children no matter what. These are tears of knowing – of past secrets well hidden and the future that will come to pass. Tears of sadness for present, past and future pain. And tears to cleanse, rebirth, and give strength.
As the droplets soak through the thin fabric of my clothes onto my soft, shivering, receptive skin, their cool touch gives me new hope. They roll down my body cleansing my fear and pain. And I am strengthened by this message from the depths of the earth. The wise mother bathes her children and gently pushes them forward into the unknown. On we must go, bravely venturing forward, drawing strength from within and without, knowing that this time too, will pass.