#NoVote2017

A woman casting her ballot. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)
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Controversy. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone signifies their apathy towards the ultimate civic duty…the electoral process. As a community we have fully bought into the voting culture, hook, line and sinker, without actually completely understanding the monster that is democracy. The majority has its way…and the minority should have its say, but here in Africa, the minority is often a forgotten demographic.

Now…let me get to the point. Personally, I have many thoughts and concerns on how the Kenyan political atmosphere is shaping up, and I have consciously chosen not to participate out of my understanding of what is plaguing us as a nation. This is why I have no plans to vote come August.

 

1) You can’t teach an old dog new tricks


Kenyans. It seems we are innately predisposed to be corrupt and averse to integrity. I really don’t understand it, because we are the same people who would demand integrity and accountability from our leaders, yet none from ourselves. We seem to forget that the political elite are not Lucifers cast down to Earth from heaven. They are you and me. In other words, they come from us, the community at large, and as such, those ills that plague us as a community directly impact on their mannerisms as well. I am not saying all leaders are corrupt, but I am saying most of them are, and that is the problem (remember democracy being a game of numbers?). You can’t expect a sinner to step into power and miraculously transform into a saint. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

At the same time, we as individuals make the most disappointing of choices in-between elections in our personal lives. We steal exams, kill, destroy, lie, rape, etc for 4 and a half years, withering away the little that’s left of our integrity and self-respect but 6 months out from an election expect to metamorphose into upright, respectful citizens who will make the right choices come election time? Our failure to change at a personal level is exactly why we vote in the same, corrupt leadership time and again. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” We have to express our desire for change through our daily actions. Let’s keep in mind that we have been a de jure multiparty state since 1992, and in all that while we have been voting and all that to little change. What do we need to do to move this country in a more positive direction? Exclusively participating in elections has proven to be insufficient. We must do more.

 

2) Civic education is non-existent

I remember a few months ago when the President of the Republic of Kenya stood on national television and publicly castigated “foreign powers” for infiltrating into the country and offering up civic education. Now, I can partly understand his anger, because he viewed it as an affront on Kenya’s sovereignty. Surely as the Commander-in-Chief, you must puff your chest up from time to time? But when you, as a President, offer nothing in terms of government-driven civic empowerment initiatives to your own people for 4 years, what moral justification do you hold to stop someone (foreign or native) from filling the void that you so intentionally left behind? It’s obvious hypocrisy because if he well and truly cared for the future of Kenyans, civic education would be a constant, continuous process and not some shoddily put-together last minute programme. Yet sadly, we have collectively bought into the idea that civic education is only reserved for election time, and the political elite, knowing how our ignorance benefits them, see no need to change the status quo. After all, the last minute rush by the IEBC to “educate the citizen” allows for loopholes and mistakes that can easily be explained away as the electoral body “having no time”.

 

3) Voting is your right, not your obligation

Chapter 4, Article 38, Section (3) of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) clearly outlines how “Every adult citizen has the right, without unreasonable restrictions —

  1. to be registered as a voter;
  2.  to vote by secret ballot in any election or referendum; and
  3.  to be a candidate for public office, or office within a political party which the citizen is a member, and, if elected, to hold office.”

Now, here’s where I have the biggest problem with majority of “woke” Kenyans. The Constitution clearly stipulates voting as a right, which in other words, means you may or may not exercise this said right without fear of repercussions. People have twisted the word ‘right’ into ‘obligation’, by making it appear as though a citizen HAS TO PARTICIPATE in the electoral process through balloting, and that this, exclusively, is the absolute measure of one being responsible. That is a common misnomer, because to be a responsible citizen comes with many more responsibilities. Again, a right is not synonymous with an obligation.

Again, people presume if one does not vote, they have no right to criticise current leadership. To those of that mindset I ask one question that shall help end this debate once and for all: Do you pay your taxes? (VAT, PAYE, custom duties and levies, etc…) If yes, you have EVERY RIGHT to speak up. The reason why people complain is to keep these people accountable with our national resources. The tax pool, from which politicians and government agencies loot, is contributed to by everyone, voting and non-voting citizenry alike (even your children who are not of age contribute when they buy a Ksh.10 lollipop). Just like a customer-service provider relationship, we all have the right to demand for quality for services rendered if we have already paid from them. This is further illustrated in Chapter 6 of the Constitution of Kenya (Leadership and Integrity) which outlines the expected conduct of public officials and calls on ALL citizens to hold government officials (elected or otherwise) accountable for their actions while in office. In other words, the Constitution itself grants non-voters the power to complain. Ignorance of this is no excuse.

Those are just a few of my key reasons for not intending to vote this coming election. Again, don’t confuse my logic, I said this election. Hopefully in the future, things will be a lot different so that I may vote. Right now, I do feel that the 2017 Poll is unfortunately done and dusted, and as such, I see no point in wasting my time lying to myself that I have made a difference by casting my ballot. As such, I intend to continue being proactive in my bid to empower the common mwananchi, because it is in them within which the power to change the system lies but unfortunately the majority are entirely unaware of the rot that plagues this country and uplifting them is the key to how we can convert the potential of this country into reality. They do form the majority of our populous, so to neglect them, and to flock to the ballot box in our hundreds as “responsible Kenyans” is tantamount to cooking ugali with a teaspoon. But for now, all I can say is that if you plan to vote, you have a huge responsibility on your shoulders:

  1. know your aspirants (MP, MCA, Woman’s Rep, Senator, Governor, President, etc) and their agenda/manifestos. Review your current leadership and how they have performed against their campaign promises. This is the least of all requirements. If you do not know this come August, then you have no business at all casting your ballot.
  2.  be objective. Vote with your head and not your heart. Just because you’re voting for one party’s Presidential candidate doesn’t mean you have to vote for the same party in ALL positions. Not all aspirants share the political ideology of their party, but are rather using these parties to gain political mileage.
  3.  vote where you live! I know it’s a little late to say this because registration has already closed, but honestly I can’t stress this well enough for future elections. It makes little to no impact for you to travel thousands of miles to make a difference somewhere else, yet leave your house in tatters. You’re leaving the choice of your local leadership to other people, and choosing local leaders for a community you don’t understand (how do you know what they are ailing from and what cures them?). You’ll be gambling with people’s futures and leaving them for dead. As Kenyans, we have gotten used to traveling to shags or to a convenient polling station with low traffic, which defies the whole point of representative democracy…because the people you’ll be electing won’t be representing you or your interests. So it’s about time we changed our behaviour.

This is only my personal outlook on how I can get this country moving forward. We all have our own brands of activism, and as long as they are beneficial to this country, we should nurture them and subject ourselves to constructive criticism and correction. If you are voting, do the right thing and vote wisely. The future of this country is directly in your hands. Let me know how you feel.

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