Kenya: To vote, or not to vote?

A photographer runs for cover after policemen fired tear gas at a convoy of opposition politicians and supporters of the National Super Alliance coalition during a protest along a street in Nairobi. (Reuters)

A photographer runs for cover after policemen fired tear gas at a convoy of opposition politicians and supporters of the National Super Alliance coalition during a protest along a street in Nairobi. (Reuters)

Kenyans are supposed to choose their president on Thursday – again. But there’s a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the process, with a large cross-section of Kenya’s voters’ roll threatening to boycott the process.

The last presidential vote, on August 8, was annulled by the Supreme Court which found serious irregularities in the electoral process.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) principal and Opposition leader Raila Odinga earlier this month stated he won’t participate in the upcoming elections, citing credibility issues with the electoral board. He has urged supporters not to participate in the poll.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chief Justice David Maraga, however, insist that it is the right of any Kenyan to choose whether or not to participate in the elections.

For Kenyans weighing up whether to vote or not on Thursday, it’s not just about party politics (assuming the election survives a last-minute legal challenge on Wednesday and goes ahead).

The credibility or lack thereof of the electoral commission is a major factor.

Kimani Nyoike, a human rights activist, said: “I need not just any president, but the one who is elected in a clear, clean, transparent and incredible manner.
We can never tire to have a clean electoral institution if we are to guarantee ourselves peace and tranquillity. I know what a sham election means. We have been there before,” said Kimani.

He said that Kenya needs to implement wide-ranging electoral reforms before choosing its next president.

“If we proceed with this election, we literally won’t have a country. Not literally war, but deep divisions that we cannot avoid. We cannot afford a political crisis arising from balkanising half of Kenya.”

Renowned journalist Nzau ya Musau decided to withhold his vote in protest after witnessing children caught up in the brutal police response to protests.

“Negligence or otherwise, as a parent I cannot stand that kind of thing. Our contests as adults should steer clear of our children’s growth, hopes and wishes. I am standing out for the children and I want to encourage others to do the same,” he said.

Nzau insists it has nothing to do with the opposition party and its protests demanding the resignation of electoral commission officials including the chairman Wafula Chebukati

Aisha Ahmed, a humanitarian worker, is deterred by logistical reasons - it’s simply too expensive for her to travel home to Mandera, North Eastern Kenya to vote. It costed her $60 dollars to cast her ballot in the August 8 election, money she is not ready to part with again.

“It’s not worth spending the cash all over again. The political atmosphere has also made money very scarce and sacrificing it for someone who I’m not so sure has my interest at heart is not something I’m willing to undertake,” he added.

Collins Mwanga, a clinical officer in Migori County, pointed out that the constitution has given him the freedom to choose not to vote.

“I don’t believe IEBC has the mandate to conduct a free, fair and credible elections,” he added.

Hildah Chao, a social researcher, is tired of the fight between the opposition alliance and the ruling Jubilee party - and their respective leaders Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Both party leaders are careless about Kenyans and are more interested in power and solving long term family issues,” she added.

Haddasah Mwangi feels that too many people have been killed in the last few months by trigger happy police during protests.

“Dead people don’t vote. The fact that they are ready to sacrifice human beings in their greed for power shows that they do not have an ounce of humanity in them,” she added.

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