27 February 2013

Mama Congo Goes to Kenya

It's an interesting week to be in Kenya. On Monday the nation holds elections and it's all anyone can talk about. If you'll remember Kenya's last election in 2007 turned violent. After disputed results around 1,300 were killed and 600,000 people were displaced. Fighting lasted for months.

As you can imagine, the nation is braced. After living through Congo's tense elections last year, I sympathize. Thankfully in Congo our tension was mostly before the election and over the uncertainty of if country would explode or not. It didn't. This is what Kenyans are hoping for this week.

Even Obama taped a message reminding Kenyans to have a peaceful election. Yesterday in the Daily Nation's Opinion Page, a commentator wrote how humiliating it felt to have the President of the United States take time out of his day to tell Kenyans not to kill each other, "As though we don't know it's good for us." The commentator said, "It's as though we are some wild animals out there in the jungle."

Image and video here.

On Monday night, 8 presidential candidates had their second and final debate. It was held at a local high school and very pretty. One of the sponsors was the Ford Foundation. I thought I'd  miss it because of my duties chaperoning 18 teenagers at the mall, but luckily I found a pharmacy with a TV and perched myself with the security guard. If excitement can be gauged by TV volume, he was very excited.

Coverage of the debate was quite Oscar-esque with candidates arriving in helicopters and limos. My personal favorite moment was when the only woman candidate proudly took her very well-coordinated purse with her onstage.

Image from here.

The candidates debated corruption, minimum wage and also noted with appreciation that they all had the same and equitable podium. Apparently during the last debate two of them were given "ugly brown" ones. A sure sign of bias.

Most people think voters will cast their ballots along tribal lines. My security guard friend agreed. He told me two candidates were from the same tribe. I asked if this was a good or bad thing. He said, "It's TERRIBLE. It will split the vote."

Image from here.

So good luck to Kenya on Monday. I offer a word of encouragement, as my security guard friend said, "At least we're not DRC."

*Note:  Want to read more about East African politics?  Check out this brand new blog written by several of our favorite experts.

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