The Unsung Heroes of 2013 Kenya Elections
Every election cycle has heroes and villains. When you review the 2013 elections, you will always remember where you were when Uhuru Kenyatta was declared President.
In the past, Kenya elections had a reputation for being a bloody prizefight in which voters resorted to machetes and fists because the electoral body failed to get it right, it was a relief to watch civility and respect for law and order prevail throughout the process.
This brings us to the unsung heroes of these elections, many who crossed our paths quietly and unnoticed. They were rarely acknowledged publicly but executed their duties with diligence and with passionate love for this country.
I will go out on a limb and celebrate their work that made the 2013 elections a huge success.
Voters and the people of Kenya: They went to the polls with a simple expectation: please count my vote. They stood in long lines, withstood a week of tension and anxiety watching the results trickle in slowly like a suspenseful television drama that was extended for six days. Thank you for keeping the peace and being so patient.
IEBC staff: They braced countless hours before and after the big day on March 4 working in remote areas. Working with the security forces they braved the whether and a torrent of voters, counting ballot papers late into the night. Some of the staff paid the ultimate price in Mombasa and Kilifi while executing their duties to give us a credible election. You are deeply appreciated.
Civil societies, media and peace campaign organizers: They complimented the work of the IEBC by running a very effective media campaign through road shows, radio, television and print media reminding us where we had come from, the dark abyss the nation stared at in 2008 and the need to maintain the peace before, during and after elections.
Their efforts greatly contributed to all Kenyans recognizing that elections come and go but Kenya remains. That Kenya is much greater than any single individual or political party.
The media: The members of the fourth estate showed maturity and sobriety in their coverage by avoiding taking sides and preaching peace.
They blacked out live news conferences of parties seeking quick publicity during the tallying process and attempting, in a rather absurd way, to mobilize their supporters incase the outcome did not please them.
Live coverage was a major contributor of the PEV that was fuelled by the media as politicians whipped up the emotions of outraged party supporters who flowed into the streets under the banner of mass action.
The media redeemed itself with balanced and fair coverage. The graphics and theme music and 24 hours non-stop news from K24, KTN, NTV, KBC and Citizen showed that election coverage had been taken to another level.
I can’t help but especially single out the NTV team of Larry Madowo, Smriti Vidyarthi and Wallace Kantai for making us appreciate that elections are not a bloody fight, that there is humor and laughter in elections. They engaged with voters via social media like tweeter and Facebook demonstrating that there really was going to be life after March 4.
IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan and CEO James Oswago: I don't care what kind of perks come with their jobs, I would not even wish to interview. I watched this two gentlemen sweat and stammer throughout the week along with other commissioners in a tense atmosphere at Bomas. It amplified the stress that comes with the job. One of them was even arrested and jailed on social media.
Listening to Hsssan joke about how they met for the first time at the interview reception for the position of Chairman, you knew he was unleashing all the anxiety of a difficult week. Its takes tenacity and courage to take on the job in a country where flawed elections can lead to turmoil and loss of life.
Considering the debacle of their predecessor ECK, both gentlemen and their staff delivered an election that was praised by observers as credible. There were drops of hiccups especially with regard to technology, but they handled adversity with grace and humility in the eyes of the public.
Now let’s look at the villains.
Western powers: European Union, UK, US Under Secretary Johnny Carson and the likes that unwisely attempted to inject their views about “possible consequences” for voting in some candidates (they didn’t mention names, but we all knew who they were referring to).
Their veiled attacks on Kenya’s sovereignty and their attempt to swing the election will forever remain ingrained in the mind of voters.
Kenya’s sovereignty will never bend to the whims of external powers. Voters go to the polls to vote with their conscience. This congregation of sad diplomats owes Kenyans an apology.
Political parties and posters: They painted all the bridges, roads, picnic seats, walls that they could find and plastered them with ugly posters all over the country making a repulsive mosaic.
Traffic signs, tarmac roads, bumps and traffic posts were not spared from the senseless orgy of poster splatter that morphed into one big mess at the expense of the safety of motorists and pedestrians. Even more disturbing, the city council and other civic bodies turned the way as we were assaulted with posters.
County Governments need to take up this eyesore problem during every election cycle and enact laws to prevent the uncontrolled attack of poster by either providing designated walls for posters or penalizing candidates whose face appears on the poster with stiff penalties. Arrest of night poster merchants should be on the table.
The era of electioneering is now over, or has taken a hiatus till 2017. Lets roll up our sleeves and get down to the task ahead; building Kenya.
Western media: They trooped into Nairobi hoping to cover blood letting tribal violence whose coverage perhaps would win them consideration for a Pulitzer Prize. CNN would have ran away with most trophies for amplifying a poly stage managed group of "fighters" shot in a forest vowing to unleash ethnic war that would surpass 2008. Most of the western media paid little attention to covering the effective peace campaign by different groups that urged voters to keep peace. Instead, when the elections where over, dejected and depressed western journalists picked their bags, note books and cameras and moved to the next - hopefully - blood letting destination worth covering by the media. I will take one guess: Mali or Syria.
By Sayila Liganga
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