Voter Apathy and Citizen Participation in Kenya

40+ M Kenyans
75% aged 18-35
Total registered voters 22M
Registered voters who turned out to vote 14M
Political pundits say, most voters in this election were over 40 and come to think of it. I voted at Westlands Primary, I was at the gate at 5.30 am. Most people looked to be atleast 35 and older.
No youths in sight.

The polling Station was opened at 8.30am because the ballot papers for Visa Oshwal Primary got mixed up with the ones for Westlands primary.

You were supposed to look for the classroom where you are supposed to vote by sending a text to IEBC platform with your ID number #your year of birth. Neither the online platform or sms one were working, so we were subjected to the strangest ordeal where you go to walls around the entrance to the polling Station, look for your surname and then go to the attached room to vote.

This was the court decision to be able to have manual registers at polling Station regardless of the end to end automation of the voting system. So they had posted some very small fonts from the top of the wall to the bottom.

All the surnames beginning with say the letter A were not on one wall, so if you miss your name on one wall you could move to about five others. It was crazy. It was hard to read. It was crowded. I found my younger siblings names ironically the ones who did not vote. See the correlation, in most families its the older people who were voting. I was fed up with looking for my name on the wall and decided to try the sms system again and it worked. I just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just use the old method of class 1 is for people who have surnames starting with from A to C. Anyway, I figured they were more likely using ID serial sequence than surname alphabetical order. Yeah. Whatever mehn. It was the most frustrating and infuriating voting experience and I have voted in every election except 2002. It was chaos. A younger person would have just gone home without voting but I never start anything that I won’t finish no matter how frustrating, difficult and just plain obnoxious. It’s how I am wired.

In the afternoon I drove a family member to go vote. I didn’t see any young people. I remember seeing Professor of political science Kisiangani who I followed religiously when he had a show with Anne Kiguta on K24. I understand he’s affiliated to UDA now. Parking was terrible but I managed to finesse my way into an apartment complex parking lot to wait for my person to vote. Basically nilienda kupark kwa nyumba ya mtu. Bless that watchy.It took less than half an hour.

As someone who started voting during the Moi era where everyone knew that it was Moi who was going to win, the point of me voting was merely for solidarity with the opposition. It was my way of protesting against the mockery of democracy that elections were during Moi error just to show the international community that we hold elections.

Back then it was personal. The opposition we were voting for were our messiah and our liberators. It was symbolic. It wasn’t about policies and representation and the whole gamut of why citizens exercise their civic duty to vote. It was like a sacrament.

Matiba was a huge deal. He had paid dearly for the position he held in the hearts of Kenyans. It wasn’t a cheap allegiance or a bought one. Ngilu was a revolutionary, a woman running against Moi, just the symbolism of anyone running against that man was a big deal, Kibaki and DP were huge especially in Meru. Raila Odinga I can’t even describe the hope Kenyans had vested in him. He was almost a mythical being, a phoenix who always rose from the ashes over and over again. In an error of political assassination, how could he even be human to just not end up at Got Alila as Ouko did and to date I have never understood why Moi had Ouko killed. To my mind if he could kill harmless Ouko how was Raila who instigated a coup still alive?

The idealism was real. Now it’s all about payoffs, bribes and tribe. How low the mighty have fallen. The revolutionaries lost their shine once they took the big seats. To me the only one who never lost his revolutionary status was Raila Odinga. So it was a no brainer for me and if he wasn’t running I wasn’t voting.

So maybe the leaders we now have are not special enough to get a millennial to get up at 5am on a very cold season to wait three hours to vote. Youth is a time of idealism. Our older people have more hope and idealism than the youth. That is the tragedy of our time because all over the world, it’s the youth who spur revolution.

During Mois time it was University students and student leaders. The University student leaders we have now are just paid marionettes of the politicians.

After all these years I’m not jaded about Raila Odinga. The same way I believed he had supernatural powers to survive Mois torture and assassination machine and kept being a thorn in Mois flesh, is the same way I still have faith in him and hope that he can really change this country as old as he is. He reminds me of one of the world’s greatest revolutionaries Pepe Mujica.

But enough about my life long political romance with Baba. Let’s Gerrit from the young turks about what is behind their voter apathy. Kwanza female voter apathy as one older lady told me when I tried to talk politics with her, siasa ni ya wanaume. Unfortunately I am raised in a very unconventional family where not only is siasa not ya wanaume but even football and sports sio ya wanaume. My male relatives don’t follow football or any other sport. My mom follows world cup from quarters. I used to follow NBA religiously as a child then my taste changed. I was shocked when I started dating and realised that men followed Premier league like some kind of cult. They knew what every player earns every week like wtf? They are like zombies about football or rather soccer. It was culture shock. Me my mind is interested in too many things to actually follow one thing religiously like that. I tend to be obsessed with one thing and then discard it once I think I know enough about it. Like right now I’m studying neurology and how the brain works, I’m actually downloading medical encyclopedias to understand it for no particular reason I’m just interested in it at the moment so if I was to meet a neurologist after that obsessive phase he’d probably be shocked about how much I know about his/her area of expertise. My mother and I bicker about politics. My male relatives don’t, some won’t even vote. So me what I know is that siasa and football isn’t gender specific, it is just personal preference. If you are a neurologist and wouldn’t mind me picking your brain pardon the pun about stuff I may not understand during my study inbox. Nyway back to voter apathy. Lynn Ngugi explores.

This is Pepe Mujica former president of Uruguay and political prisoner in solitary confinement for 11 years. An amazing man.

By the way young people not voting, is universal. Your story reminds me of days of Mois fighting his end. A riot was reported so school ended at about lunch. Now we jumped into the school bus trying to drive through town. The hell that we found on Museum hill.