Monday, March 4, 2013

Election Day in Kenya

BBC picture of polling queues this morning.
Today is the national election in Kenya.  As with most elections, it is a day that has been anticipated for some time, with endless noisy campaigning and political talk.  But this day, more than other election days, is met by Kenyans with trepidation and anticipation.  The violence during the 2007 election, which took the lives of over 1200 persons and displaced 650,000 persons, came very much as a surprise.  There was no anticipation of violence.  However, the results, the alleged improprieties of votes, and the secretive swearing in of the president, brought a wave of violence from which Kenyans are still recovering.  So today is met with unease as everyone watches and waits.

Many Kenyans insist that "we learned our lesson from the last election - it won't happen again."  All of the presidential politicians made public statements for their supporters not to resort to violence...and assured supporters that if there are any complaints regarding the election, the candidates will take it up in court.  However, in the days leading up to the election, there have been a scattering of reports of violence and attacks in various villages, mostly along tribal lines.  Some of the issues go back to land issues dating back to the end of colonial times.  99,000 police have been deployed around the country.  Yesterday, around Kitale, I saw numerous police walking around in fatigues with AK47s - not a usual site here, so I'm assuming they are part of that police force.

With the new biometrics system, they hope to have reports of the results very quickly.  People are voting for the president, senators, county representatives, county governors, and members of parliament.  The presidential winner must secure 50% of the vote, plus 25% in half of the 47 counties.  If none of the eight presidential candidates achieves this, there will be a run-off election on April 11. 

For myself, I am staying on a ghost campus right now.  Everyone has gone to their respective hometowns to vote and the campus will be empty for a week.  I have been warned by the US Embassy to lay low for 72 hours.  They are sending regular emails and text messages to all US citizens in Kenya, keeping us abreast of the election news.

The National Anthem for Kenya is essentially a prayer - I would ask that you join with many Kenyans today in prayer, and echo the words of their national anthem:
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders

Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavor
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage and splendor
Firm may we stand to defend

Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labor
 Fill every heart with thanksgiving
[If you want to hear the music, with lyrics in Swahili, please see below.]