Kenya is a spirited nation. Home to legends, champions, innovators, magical wonders of the world, and a powerful force called Kenyans On Twitter #KOT. These elements among others unite us beyond geographical boundaries, giving us moments to put aside our differences and challenges to stand as one. Yet, after every five years, the country is put to test by one of the greatest components of democracy – a general election.
The choice is yours, but the fate is ours!
Campaigns towards our general election are typically heavily focused on the top seat of the country, yet it is not the only seat that requires our vote. From Members of County Assembly, Members of Parliament, Women Representatives, Senators to Governors, any elective seat requires your vote to determine the occupant. That is why, understanding the power you hold as a voter is the most important tool of democracy you will ever have.
Each one of us, whether we admit or not, has a reason for choosing a preferred candidate. The sad reality is, whichever elective position is at stake, ethnicity plays a significant role in the election outcome. This makes our election a game of numbers – influenced by voting patterns majorly decided along ethnic lines. As a country, we can deny or assume this, but whether you choose to identify yourself as a Wanjiku, Kwamboka, Wafula or Chebet, we live in a deeply rooted ethnic state and we must acknowledge it but not be consumed by it.
Take a moment and think about how your life and those around you has been since the last election. How long do you have to wait for ambulance services in your constituency? Do you even have the services available? When was the last disbursement of CDF funds to facilitate improvements of public services? Better yet, where are the jobs that were promised to young people meant to uplift their livelihoods?
Our participation in our general election should not be about merely casting a vote. As those seeking your vote to represent you in local and national governments hit the campaign trail, do not fall under the spell of hand outs, a show of might based on who can pull the largest crowds or better yet, rhetoric rooted in fear to bring division. For those seeking re-election, you as a voter need to ask yourself what they have done to improve your social or economic status the last four years – party and ethnic biases aside. For those seeking your vote for the first time, do not let economic concerns, corruption, justice, health care among other problems escape your mind. Put them to task about these issues and listen to their solutions.
We have ethnic issues that run deep but we can take control of the narrative and refuse to participate in divisive politics. Mobilizing people along ethnic lines breeds ethnic friction, which as history should remind us, can open historical wounds. I know many are frustrated and the sentiments expressed here might easily be dismissed by most people. However, a government is for the people, by the people, and you have the power to decide how that government looks like. Once you have decided, you must live with your choices for the next five years.
Every election cycle, we have an opportunity to vote in our benefit interest. We must be selfish with our vote and vote on policy issues, ideologies, development agendas and progressive leaders. We need to hold our leaders accountable and demand better for our counties, country and for ourselves. We need leaders who will make us renew our pride to be called Kenyans. The choice is yours, but the fate is ours.
(The Author, Linda Okero, is a communications and development enthusiast who has been enhancing socio-economic transformation in Micro-Finance, Government, Business Acceleration and Advocacy space. She is the Coordinator of the UNCTAD Youth Action Hub – Kenya, a YALI Alumni and Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse Live Kenya.
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