Meet Kenya’s voters

The nation is set to choose a new leader. Meet seven people who hold the future of the country in their hands.

Kenya voters pastiche

Nairobi, Kenya – As Kenyans prepare to go the polls in general elections on Monday, March 4, many here fear the return of the violence which marred the 2007 vote. With social divisions often drawn along mainly ethnic and tribal lines, Kenyans are hoping the country will unite under the nation’s new leadership.

But many have little time for any of the candidates, who are often seen as removed from the struggles of daily life.

Watch these videos to meet seven Kenyans, and to discover their hopes and fears, and what these elections mean to them.

Peter Muya, a self-employed man in Mathare, Nairobi

Peter Muya says that he will vote for someone who will make his life better.

“Our leaders are the ones oppressing us,” he says. “They have turned us into idlers.”

Living in one of Kenya’s largest slums – Mathare is home to more than 500,000 people – Muya says he will not be influenced by leaders’ wealth.

“I will look at how the person serves me,” he says.

During the violence that marred the 2007 poll, gangs went door-to-door in the slum and burned down more than 100 homes.

He said he fears what happened in 2007 may happen again.

“I am afraid,” he says. “I do not know what will happen.” 

Omar Mbaruk, fisherman in Shimoni

Omar Mbaruk lives near the border with Tanzania, in Shimoni, once a slave-trading port in the 18th century.

The important thing “is to vote for someone like me”, he says.

“The most important thing here is clean water for domestic consumption.”

There are some candidates whichare good, he said, “and others which make no sense at all”.

He said he would vote for someone from his tribe: “If I vote for someone I am familiar with, I know where to find him… and I know how to deal with him if he does contrary to what I want.”

The Coast Province, where Shimoni is located, is said to be a swing state that could be key to the outcome of this election.

Said Mwaka, school headmaster in Kisumu

Teacher Said Mwaka has been in Kisumu, on the coast of Lake Victoria, for about 12 years.

“Education is something which has become very, very expensive in Kenya, and I don’t know why the government is not taking control,” he says.

He believes the government should do more to ensure equal access to schooling for all the country’s classes. He also stands against the tribalism known to dominate many of the country’s affairs.

“Somebody asks you: ‘What’s your tribe?’ And, to me, that’s not the right thing. I would prefer, in the future, if you identify yourself as being from Kisumu county, then that should be all. 

Leah Njeri, IDP in Nakuru

Leah Njeri and her family used to live in an Eldoret village named Kamuyu Farm. But finding herself a target of the violence that spread through the country after the disputed 2007 election, she and her family fled here to a camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Nakuru.

As corpses lay in the streets, the blood of the dead flowing in the gutters, the Njeris escaped.

“By the time we left, our houses had already been burned to ashes,” she says.

They have been living in makeshift accommodation ever since, with scant resources on which to survive.

“Elections are the sole cause of all these problems,” she says. “They are the reason I have lived like this for the past five years. I will not vote… Of what use is voting to me if I am still an IDP and I am still suffering?”

Enos Olik, Nairobi filmmaker

Videographer and musician Enos Olik is one of Nairobi’s hip young urbanites. Stylish and educated, he said youth unemployment was the biggest issue facing the country.

Kenya needs more opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“A lot of youth are coming up with ideas,” he says. “We need more loans, so that’s the main agenda for me and my friends in the same field.”

Olik said he was bribed in 2007 to vote for a particular candidate. “I had the money, and I didn’t even vote for the same guy,” he says, smiling.

“I knew who I was going to vote for, but free money is free money.”

This time round, candidates need to be prepared to accept a result they don’t want, he said.

“The two major politicians vying for the president’s seat, were fearing that none of them were ready to lose. Everyone is thinking that he is going to win, and that’s a very dangerous point of view. But, we just hope for the best.”

Lucas Lotieng, a pastoralist in Turkana County

Lucas Lotieng is a 60-year-old farmer scratching out a living in the dust of Kenya’s northwest.

“God created this place,” says Lotieng. “But he gave it no water, and made it hot.”

With a wife and seven children, Lotieng finds it hard to get by.

Semi-nomadic, he follows the rains in search of grass on which his herd can graze. But blasted by the sun and the drought in a daily struggle for the necessities of life, Lotieng has little time for politicians seeking power.

“Here in the bush, we have seen no good from those we elected,” he says.

“They come here to make promises, but how can we trust them until we see what they can do.”

His wife, Jacinta Aremon, said that, if she were elected governor, she would focus on local problems.

“I would prioritise livestock, and focus on my people suffering and help them to get food.”  

Edith Isah, a graduate living in Mathare slum

Edith Isah is a design graduate living in the same huge convergence of slums as Peter Muya.

“It’s peaceful to us because we are used to it,” she says.

“[Outsiders] probably believe Mathare is a place of theft, but, I think, to me, it is safer, because I am used to it since I was young.”

Despite her education, Edith still struggles to find opportunities.

“My biggest challenge is not having a job,” she says.

Alongside increased security, election officials should address young people, she said, “because these are the people who cause the violence most of the time”.

“We have to choose someone who can unite Kenya as one. Someone who can bring peace.”

This video is part of IRIN’s “No Ordinary Election” series. Catch up with the whole special series here.

Source: IRIN