Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Election Day

I know by now you have heard everything there is to learn about the historic general election that Kenyans undertook three days ago.

Even before poll day there was a lot of skepticism as to whether the country would go for a peaceful election or would end up going down the drain as it did after the disputed elections of 2007.

Local and international media alike carried stories on the impact of the election not just to the economy but how the presidential election would impact neighboring countries.

Many had speculated an outbreak of violence despite the numerous peace efforts that had been undertaken by various stakeholders.

For various foreign media houses the death of six policemen on the eve of the election day after attack by a gang of criminals suspected to be from the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) was a trailer for what was to be unveiled but to date they are yet to have their day.

Of course by now stories of the women who 'recycled' children in order to avoid the long queues at polling stations and how the brilliant electoral officials  opted to outsmart the women by marking the children's ears.

Then there were those who feigned pregnancy in order to receive preference in casting their votes. One young lady barely, three months pregnant carried with her the doctor's acknowledgement in support of her quest despite the missing 'bump'.

Some however were not so fortunate, several women who stuffed towels and clothes under their clothes to mimic a baby bump were actually let down by their female neighbors who were appalled by the overnight baby growth rate who shamed them by removing the stuffed clothes in public.

Social media was a buzz with name suggestions for the baby who was delivered  while the mother queued to cast her vote at one of the polling stations in the capital Nairobi. Suggestions ranged from Ballot-Eli to names like Election Akinyi.

These little behaviors many of which were unreported went to affirm that despite our various attempts to copy western lifestyle by seeming civilized, the little African in us will always emerge at the first opportunity.

You might wonder why this piece has taken a more personalized version than any of my other pieces. you might have had various versions of the election story but you have not heard my version yet and I am a professional storyteller!

Monday March 4, was a day that I looked forward to not because of the election interestingly because of the fact that there would be absolutely no traffic on the recently launched Thika Superhighway that i use to get to town every morning.Somehow the expanded road seems to have attracted more vehicles leading to bottle necks that can extend your travel time by between thirty minutes and an hour.

Election day was just splendid! I spent a record 15 minutes to get to town and the fare was unbelievably cheap. Honestly I battled with myself not to actually go back home and make the journey again just for fun.

I knew I would be working on election day so I decided to register to a polling station near my office for convenience. It turned out that I had  registered at one of the most populous polling stations within Nairobi Central Business District as I cast my vote some minutes after seven o'clock in the evening.

Instead of going to the office I decided to walk to the polling station first to cast my votes but the lines were extremely long. If I was to stand in line then I would have to wait for the better part of the morning to cast my vote so I walked back to the office thoroughly impressed.

It was evident that those who constituted the queues were fairly young meaning that a majority of the youth had become politically empowered and the queue was nonetheless shorter six hours later.

Being a journalist has its own privileges and one of them is an access pass to polling stations accredited by the electoral body. So when I returned to cast my vote I was armed with my key to avoid queuing but I had a change of heart at the last minute and decided to walk to the far end of the queues.

I was in good company, a novel in hand and a bottle of cold water to while a way the time as i waited to get to the ballot.Up close, I marveled even more at the turnout, it was a mix that had not  been seen before reason being in past elections the country's middle class always seemed to abstain from participating but here were several vehicles parked by the roadside and owners queuing to perform their civic duty.

An hour into my standing in line I notice a hawker with some sort of hat contraption in built with a fan powered  by a solar charged mortar. It immediately got my interest and that's how I ended up buying one for myself.

The cap did not disappointed it worked efficiently as long as I was in the sun the panel would charge and the fun would rotate with cool air drying of the sweat from my face.

That hawker opened my foresight to the kind of potential the Kenyan youth have and the creativity in their minds that generally lies underutilized and i recall thinking to myself that this was the kind of opportunity the country's 4th president should take advantage of to look into the problem of unemployment.

With my cap on I became an instant hit, I put my book aside and started chatting with those close to me though people were generally tired of the long lines they were enthusiastic and faces beamed with hope that this time around they would handle the election in a different way as if to say this time they had the voice and that their vote mattered.

When we got into the polling station and got divided into streams the conversation seemed to change to baby names and what names to avoid giving your  child in future so that they would avoid making long queues.

R and  S streams as well as J to L seemed to have the longest lines while names starting with the last six digits of the alphabet had relatively short queues.

When the door of the room in which we were to cast our vote was visible from a distance we were physically exhausted. we joked among ourselves that by the time it was our turn to  cast the ballot we would have forgotten who we wanted to choose in the first place

By the time I had chosen my candidates for all the six elective posts, the national tallying center had already began receiving provisional results for the presidential candidates.

I got home rather late that night with aches in almost all parts of my body part of me wishing  I would have jumped the queue and saved myself some bit of trouble.

The other half not wanting to change a thing if  given the chance to relive election day.

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