Let me tell you about my first time voting in the Kenya General Elections…
I’ve lived long enough to vote twice in Kenya’s General Election. For my first time voting, I went with my father and siblings to the polling station. My father was political, he was a mobilizer and an expert at grassroots political campaigns. He is my greatest influence when it comes to my own journey in pursuit of social justice.
I remember the excitement I had. I was 18, so there were many things that made me happy about that year. For starters, it was my false sense of freedom for growing into an adult and of course my heightened sense of civic duty. You should have seen me that day, ready to cast my vote and take a selfie of my inked pinky finger for my Instagram.
Me, I understood civic duty and political participation at a young age. Every morning, my father would read the newspapers and write a brief analysis of current political events. It was routine. After he wrote these briefs; usually around 200 words or so, he would ask me or my siblings to send them as a text message to his contacts. At the time, he had a Nokia 3310 so it would take so long to type it all out and send it to each and every contact. It was so much work, but looking back now, I can say it was great to work. It was in doing that, for my father that I learned of Kenya’s political history, how politics in Kenya works, and most importantly why Kenya is our responsibility.
This year, I will not be voting as I am currently based in New York and did not have an opportunity to register to vote in the diaspora. Nonetheless, the lessons from my father about citizen responsibility continue to inspire me.
So what is our responsibility as citizens in this election?
- Encourage others to vote
- Engage in a cohesive dialogue that promotes peaceful elections
That’s not all. I know that some people, like me for whatever reason will not be voting in this election. You can still take citizen responsibility by:
- Promoting peaceful elections through our speech and actions
- Share useful resources that can ensure communities are safe during the election. This protection protocol by ISIRIKA contains useful tips and information on security and accessing emergency response services.
- Engaging in other community initiatives that promote people’s power, freedom, and human dignity for all, mutual aid, and community care. We must keep finding ways to alleviate our communities from suffering, affirming the people’s power, educating the masses, and changing the status quo. Elections are not the only way to create social and political change, but it is a huge part of it.
A reminder from my favorite Audre Lorde,
‘Each of us must find our work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. It means doing the unromantic and tedious work necessary to forge meaningful coalitions, and it means recognizing which coalitions are possible and which coalitions are not. It means knowing that coalition, like unity, means the coming together of whole, self-actualized human beings, focused and believing, not fragmented automatons marching to a prescribed step. It means fighting despair.’