August polls: The good, the bad and the ugly side of the 2017 siasa

Kenyans went to the polls on August 8
  • The good: Give it to Kenyans, even when they are mourning, angry or suffering there is always a way of making fun of themselves
  • The Bad: The hoi polloi struggled to afford two meals in a day and some would endure with empty stomachs after unga prices hit the roof
  • The ugly: Chris Msando’s murder

This year’s General Election was the most expensive since independence. It had the most aspirants and candidates, in the process, developing one of the widest interests in a political contest in which voters showed seasoned wanasiasa dust.

It was also an election in which candidates poured dough in what was also a battle over who could showcase financial muscle, campaign ingenuity and political machinations to woo voters who were unpredictable, if the results that sent shockwaves are any yardstick.

Women and youthful aspirants were another draw as did celebrities who will now be part of the august House as the power of the 2010 Constitution exacted its weight on our political consciousness.

For the first since devolution was actualised, women will have stronger voice in leadership as will little known aspirants, among them cooks, mechanics and watchmen who were elevated to spheres hitherto undreamt of.

The Rev Timothy Njoya reckons that though there were some ugly incidents and some setbacks, the campaigns were a “milestone in a democracy like ours.

We seemed to move away from traditional ethnic voting though not to the standard I would like. Nominations were successful and I was surprised very few rushed to court to dispute them.”

The now retired one-time fiery cleric adds that “but we are still a young democracy and our systems have to be experimented to determine to prove it is practical.”

Kenyans turned up in numbers to vote

But does this mean Kenyans have matured politically? Political analyst Barrack Muluka says maturing is still new in Kenya’s politics as “we can’t be a mature country when some citizens are running away from their land for fear of attack because of their political affiliation. It shows they did not have confidence on security apparatus to protect them.”

Muluka explains further that electioneering turns Kenya into a fragile country on the verge of collapse and “On voting day it was a holiday but Kenyans instead of celebrating resorted to hiding in their houses and doing shopping early” and as for political supporters, they demonstrated their usual insanity like in past elections and “young or old or whatever gender or ethnicity supporters behave the same way and they will go with their kingpin. On matters politics Kenyans behave like wildebeests. We are herded.”

However, away from the blistering campaign laced with barbs, propaganda and bare-knuckled confrontations, the county witnessed the bad, ugly and good of elections which were a cocktail of heightened political temperatures and raw emotions.

The good

There were many good things about this year’s General Election including but not limited to peaceful voting, efficient electoral commission, muted hatred and clear roads devoid of traffic as Kenyans hibernated in their hoods.

1. Diversity of contestants

Young Kenyans tossed themselves into the murky political waters and many emerged victorious in party primaries and elections, edging out old guards who have been calling the shots for years.

A good case being that of Starehe constituency whereby youthful aspirants Charles Njagua Kanyi (Jaguar), Boniface Mwangi and Steve Mbogo.


Similarly, women aspirants for governorship emerged strongly giving hope of three women rising to the top as county bosses - Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Joyce Laboso (Bomet). Then we had the gorgeous 20-year-old Mombasa County Woman Representative aspirant Sadaf Deen.

And even as political geezers like Maina Kamanda were retired in Starehe, in other places, old aspirants gave their grandchildren a run for their money like Mathira MP candidate Christabel Maranga, 72.

2. IEBC on election day

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) conducted the elections in what raised praise from a cross section of Kenyans as opposed to past exercises that have ended in disarray. Few disputes were witnessed during voting and murmurs of discontent only emerged when the counting and transmission of results started.

3. Humorous Kenyans on Twitter

Give it to Kenyans, even when they are mourning, angry or suffering there is always a way of making fun of themselves.

Githeri man photoshopped into a parade inspected by President Uhuru Kenyatta

Memes, humorous images, videos and texts, have lately become the in-thing to deflate emotions and rage.

They have been pacifying pieces particularly on divisive matters. Nasa’s suggestion to take the country to ‘Canaan’, which is simply to have a turnaround of system of government became the toast of online banter and postings.

4. Careers in political analysis

Budding political analysts got the opportunity to actualise their dreams in the few months of electioneering.

What with dozens of media houses lunging for the few analysts in town to make sense of political cacophony in results, political alliances and shifting fortunes. Many saw platform that have thrust their career to limelight, unlike before political analysis was a preserve of few.

5. Subdued online hate speech

Social media has been the epicentre of war mongering and incitement that has divided the country on tribal, party, social and religion lines. The platform has before used to create tension and stoke fire but apparently the authorities move to monitor social media helped tone down filth posted there.

Though not to commendable levels, hate speech on social media was different from the past political affairs and especially the 2013 polls when every Tom, Dick and Harry became part of online community.

 Thanks to the experiences of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Paul Amemba, a Busia man who were arraigned in court over hate speech.

6. Governors’ televised debates

The much-awaited presidential and their running mates debate were largely a flop but the same can’t be said of gubernatorial debates that gave voters opportunity to interrogate their manifestoes and execution of the same.

Most of the gubernatorial debates were successful across the media houses, some tinged with humour and others bare-knuckled exchange and unrealistic promises but all was satiating for Kenyans. The move was precursor of a political class willing to face criticism.

7. Political fashion

Out of the blue sartorial elegance carried Kenyans away and such would cool heated political talk with President Uhuru Kenyatta carrying the day with his well-cut shirts.

Many designers made their fortunes as did shoe designers. What with Mike Sonko, the Nairobi Governor candidate showcasing shoes with motifs of Jubilee party colours.

8. Biometric registration

Scepticism surrounded the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission biometric voter registration process but the body proved critics wrong and ended up carrying a successful exercise and subsequently the national polls.

The Bad

Horrible incidences surrounding the election transpired, some remaining a mystery and others dividing the country along tribal, political party and class lines. Here are regretful incidences citizens would wish solved or forgotten.

1. Failed presidential debates

The anticipated crossfire between presidential candidates flopped and ended becoming a dissatisfying interview when incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta failed to show up citing poor debate format and organisers failure to engage them.

Nasa candidate Raila Odinga turned up and carried the day, but Kenyans ended up dissatisfied on a number of issues touching on Uhuru and Raila.

The organisers incurred losses and thumbing noses at the debate did not augur well for a maturing democracy like ours.

2. Inflation and skyrocketing food prices

The hoi polloi struggled to afford two meals in a day and some would endure with empty stomachs after ugali, the staple food became affordable with rise in unga prices that went up more than two times.

 Average Kenyans struggled to afford even milk and agricultural produce and turned to minimizing their eating trends and shifted to other foods. For some time the poor, vulnerable population had endure as their pricey basic need became a political weapon.

3. Nkaissery death

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery bowed out at a critical time when the country was headed for the hotly-contested elections.

The late Nkaissery

His role in the polls was vital and his sudden death was treated with suspicion until postmortem indicated he succumbed to heart attack. The ex-major general’s death was beginning to stir grave accusations and counter accusations.

4. Juju in politics

Kenyan are a religious people but on political frontiers, that may not be the case if witchdoctors who purport to have made a killing from contesting politicians are anything to go by.

This has been a tradition in Kenyan politics, though done discreetly but in the recent past it has become norm as witchdoctors from neighbouring countries flock for a share of the aspirants in need of their services to allegedly triumph.

5. Fake news, black propaganda

What has become Kenya’s way of attracting votes, smear campaign, cooked news and propaganda were order of the day.

Skewed stories by bloggers and spin masters to sway voters’ opinion, pit one group against the other or blot others were not in short supply and such would sadly make it to reputable media organisations.

The ugly

1. Chris Msando’s murder

Barely weeks to the elections, IEBC head of ICT Chris Msando was murdered, leaving questions as to whether it was politically motivated.

The late Chris Msando

 His brutal death together with that of a female companion raised fears of unrest. The murder shook the country as did the sudden death of Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery.

2. Fleeing to shags

Fearing post-poll violence some Kenyans had to flee weeks before the elections kicked off creating tension across the country.

The exodus was not only an arduous task but expensive affair as matatus cashed in on their woes. It also disrupted their normal lives. So bad was the exodus, many moved with household belongings as others booked flights out of Kenya.

3. Politically motivated killing

The killing of Eldoret MCA aspirant’s three children aged between three and seven exemplified the extents political feuds can go.

James Ratemo lost his children in the most gruesome of ways in the hands of a relative. Similarly in what appeared politically-motivated attack, Loyamorok ward contestant Kibet Cheretei and Tiaty parliamentary aspirant Simon Kitamba were shot dead.