It hasn’t been the easiest few weeks. At first news of the Kenya election re-run was met with optimism and the view that things should be ‘done right’ in order to build a better future. The re-run would be a nuisance for the economy (for everything slows to almost a standstill in the wake of a presidential election here) but that it would be a necessary step on the road to accountability, transparency and achieving a solid democracy.
Well, then things started to wrong. Stories of bullying, threats to IEBC (election) officials by both sides, demonstrations, legal petitions, an opposition financier’s swanky house was raided, opposition candidate Raila Odinga refused to take part in the re-run and called for a boycott, an IEBC election official fled to the States and said she feared for her life. Suddenly, instead of looking to a better future, the country was in a quagmire of dirty tricks.
The economy has not just suffered but stagnated this year. People always speculated that 2017 would be a ‘tough’ year with the elections plump in the middle during August, but a re-run in late October and now an unsteady or uncertain outcome has seen businesses flounder. Investors (foreign and local) are unwilling to make any commitment until the political situation has settled. And for that, we are still waiting.
And oh, after having our collective nerves truly rattled in 2007/8, how we panic and stay home at the hint of a political demonstration. And is Kenya the only country in the world that awards not just one public holiday on the day of voting, but another beforehand to allow countrymen to travel to their constituencies? (The latter of which, last week was announced at 3pm the day before). All of these holidays are wreaking havoc for schools and businesses.
And the nurses strike continues. And Kenya’s leading supermarket chain, Nakumatt, founders riddled with debt, with no stock on its shelves and as anchor tenant in malls at many of it’s 50 odd locations in Kenya and beyond, their agonizing decline is dragging surrounding shopping centre businesses down with it.
And then a poor, poor lady was mugged and shot dead by a motorbike taxi within a stones throw from our house at 10am one morning just over a week ago which was deeply shocking. Her mistake, apparently, was the decision to walk around the corner to a friend’s house to drop her child for a play date, then walk back. There has been speculation as to why this happened following the event but sadly, the fact is that armed motorbike muggings in our neck of the woods have happened before.
When a shocking crime happens in this community we like to try to distance ourselves from it ever happening it to us through speculation. “It was an inside job” “She didn’t react properly” “perhaps they panicked” “should have kept calm” “Should never have been walking.” – Shouldn’t have been walking? Now we must fear walking?
While the huge wealth gap keeps growing in Kenya, there can never be a ‘free, fair and credible’ democratic process. Buying supporters, buying votes and doing whatever it takes to be in power is still the norm here. But on the up side, it’s properly raining (short rains) and Nairobi at least is green again. After all these years, we are used to experiencing Kenya’s roller coaster ups and downs. When it’s good, it’s very very good but when it’s bad, it’s horrid. #onlythethickskinnedneedapply