(Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
Tomorrow, on March 4, 2013, Kenyans will vote for their next president.
Some will walk for hours to cast their ballots. Some will wait in lines as long as a kilometer.
We are all hoping for a peaceful process - unlike the last election in late 2007, when violence erupted displacing over half a million people, killing over 1,000, and orphaning many children – some of them now living at Maisha children’s home. Some estimate that the election violence doubled the number of orphaned children in Kenya. UNICEF estimates that 100,000 vulnerable children were displaced.
“Remember what happened during the Bush – Gore election in 2000? It was like that in Kenya, except that we didn't have a process where a court decides the winner. The government was corrupt and just declared Kibaki the winner. People rose up to protest.”
Indeed, people rose up. Tribal and socioeconomic-based violence spread across several regions in Kenya – though slums in Nairobi, like Kibera - one of Africa's largest slums - saw the worst of it: looting, burning, gang rapes, shootings. The police banned rallying and many also reported murders and brutality by police against protestors.
The last election is widely considered fraudulent by the international community, with accusations of irregularities on both sides. In some cases, voter turnout was 115%. Some election officials disappeared, along with ballot boxes. Foreign observers were banned from investigating. And the list goes on and on.
“We want a peaceful election. We have learned our lesson.”
These were the exact words spoken by the Kenyans we met during our recent visit. In fact, it was almost eery that everyone spoke the same words verbatim. Mantra or propaganda? Is something deeper brewing under the surface? Recent reports of attacks, hate speech, and other tribal-related tensions suggest so.
We will soon discover the election's outcome and can only hope for peace, as well. For the sake of Kenya's children and hence for it's future.