Kenyan Political Process: The Tyranny of Money

 Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) in Kijabe.
The US presidential election cost each candidates close to 1billion Dollars. Most of the money spent came  to the candidates and their party from donors. It is a matter of fact that a small group of people, especially those who donate small amount of money, do in fact expect that their candidate will use his or her office to change the country for the better. The other donors, especially the big donors, expect pay back: Positions of power and influence where they can “get their money back’.
In Kenya, though there are dinners here and there which give some candidates money, most of the money for campaign comes from the candidate’s pocket. It is this fact that makes it impossible for some of the presidential candidates to win. Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, Paul Muite, Msalia Mdavadi, Ole Kiapi, and Dida, find it very hard to campaign. A part from the sound bites on the News Media, which by the way is corrupt (For them to cover your story, you bring them to your side, financially) advertisement either on Bill Boards, Posters and the News Media outlet costs too much money.
I decided to ride around with one of the Senate Candidates to experience what they call in Kenya “Mugithi” (the train). We stopped in one of the villages. As it happens in Kenya, gangs of young idlers came from thin air. I counted about one hundred young people. It works like this; A group that is always “Getharing” at the village spots a political entourage. They somehow blow a whistle because within a short time, people begin to come from everywhere. That is why it seems every candidate has multitudes.
They are not there to support any one. Rather, they all have one thing in common. The chance to get 200 shillings, or even fifty. The words I heard most are these: “Shoro Mayi”. Basically, “Mkono Mtupu Haulambwi”, meaning, thirst quencher! A look at jubilee meetings tell the tale. Thousands of people wearing red and yellow caps! Who pays for these? These T-shirts and caps are not just for campaign, they are attires for daily use which many people cannot afford. I saw a person wearing a T-shirt from the 2001 campaign. He has worn it so much, washed it many times with dirty river water, that it has changed from white to black. It may be the only T-shirt he had!
Candidates carry millions of shillings in small notes of what they call, finje (50 shillings), SO (100shillings), Punch (500 shillings). After a political meeting people’s “Shoro’s” get “Maiyed”. This guarantees that during the night, the idlers get drunk enough to shout, JUBILEE, CORD!
For Ole Kiapi, the joke is, given his solo four wheel drive vehicle, a flat tire gets him late for the meeting. And in that case, he delays the Tyranny of Money, missing the Tyranny of Numbers because the villagers get too thirsty and are therefore sober and silent at night!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) SYR Radio/TV, Director International Desk. Diaspora Messenger Contributor.

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