SECTIONS

For love of country - inspiring scenes from polling station

Kitengela residents wait to cast their vote at Dr Le Kimani Primary school on August 9, 2022. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Peace wins! All Kenyans should be congratulated for finding their calm and keeping it. Ululations are in order for aspirants who stayed collected when votes were being collected and counted. Peace talk evolved into peace acts.

From observations through the campaign, voting and counting season, we can declare authoritatively that peace is possible in Kenya! Let-peace-win T-shirts should be Kenya’s new political uniform. We have experienced enough chaos in the past such that even the slightest imagination of peace breaking should upset us. It is high time the chaos factory shut down permanently.

All ambitions must bow down to peace. When peace wins, order matures.  Where order matures, systems deliver. Choosing peace is choosing co-existence. Choosing peace is choosing neighbourliness. Choosing peace is choosing sacred regard for the other.

At a time of high tension, stiff competition and rollercoaster emotions, Kenya’s peace has held. People did not just keep the peace but they seem to agree that peace is important and worth guarding. The law enforcement officers were spared from cocking their guns and loading tear gas canisters, this to the relief of their families who wave them each day and watch them disappear into the line of fire where their return home is always an answered prayer.  

Voting opportunity

The polling station is not an ordinary destination. All factors are constant, the opportunity comes every five years. It is therefore not a chance to be lost. Serious citizens show up at the voting station. To such, not having the voting ink staining their finger is a form of nakedness. To them not having the violet mark is to be caught “pants down.”

No amount of philosophising can convince them why skipping a voting opportunity is not a form of crime. I saw ladies extend their manicured and polished nails to get the democracy stain. For the love of country, beauty can be postponed! It could have been a low voter turnout but in Chemistry language, its concentration was high. That there exist people who thoroughly love Kenya is good news.

Kenyans are good people. They just need leadership that creates opportunities that bring out this goodness.  When a leadership mines the bile in its people, the consequence is bitterness everywhere.

It was very warm to see able people support the disabled find their way around polling stations. As they “jumped” the queues no one made faces. Even if they may have felt they had been on the files too long, it was not too long to disallow a disabled person to go before them.

At the polling station, the poor and the rich, able and disabled, educated and illiterate, black and white, young and old, different religions, and different ethnicities all fitted in one file. They chatted on the way to the voting booth causing intercourse of perspectives. United in the voting power, the one file leaves all more educated and somehow socially expanded.

Those who attend rallies in stadiums are allergic to polling stations! Rallies will record a 101 per cent turnout. But that did not translate into voter turnout. It turns out that the rally attendees do not link their presence in campaign rallies to their presence in voting booths. Lesson learnt!

The size of a rally depicts not a candidate’s popularity but rather their crowd purchasing power. Rallies were flooded while voting stations suffered a drought.  Talk of extreme climatic conditions! The majority of those who voted did not attend any political rally and would have voted anyway without the impetus of aggressive persuasion. To them, voting is a citizenry act. 

More civic education

In most of the stations, the lower youth bracket of 18 to 25 was conspicuously absent. This was the same lot that surprisingly failed to register as voters. One would expect this to be the most excited group given that they would be voting for the first and second time.

They seem not to have connected with the voting process as it is at present. They were so absent that one would think they await another election where they will vote. They comfortably watched this one pass, some even dropping off their parents at the polling station to happily pick them up when done.

One of the codes that the national leadership will need to crack is why young people are so detached from things government. And do not tell me that the solution is more civic education. No. They are telling of something more complex.

The station personnel largely comprised a young crew. The youthful Returning Officers (ROs) were impressively in charge. As an observer, I saw two young polling station officers stand up to bullish voters.

Another firmly guided edgy agents on the rules and regulations of the counting and tallying process. I recall another handling a delicate matter of a missing ballot box with the calmness of the deep sea. That the State would entrust one of its most sacred rituals to young people is highly commendable.

If they can be trusted with running an election, they sure can be trusted with much more! In a great demonstration of responsibility, they never abandoned the ballot boxes even after three – even four - sleepless nights. The youth win! Young yes, but totally capable of “unyoung” things.

In one of the polling stations, a family brought lunch boxes for all the security officers overseeing the station. As they happily indulged, I overheard one of the soldiers narrate how earlier in the day, a lady had come over to him and asked how many security officers were in the polling station and vowed to bring them midmorning tea and a snack in an hour’s time, but did not return!

Many things could have deterred her return but hopefully, loose promising was not one of them.

The family that brought the sumptuous dinner just showed up.

Like in the miracle of the five thousand, they brought enough for the security officers to eat with baskets to spare. A random act of kindness goes a long way.