• Maseno Minute: Kenya Presidential Election

    Good morning! Welcome to another week and another scintillating Maseno Minute! How is your coffee? Watch out—your loving team here at TLC doesn’t want you to burn your tongue. If you do, you won’t be able to eat the rest of Friday’s pepperoni pizza we know you have your eye on for lunch today.

    This week’s Maseno Minute is heading into the dreaded, loathed field of politics, but fear not: for the first time in your recent life we will not be focusing on, reading tweets from, or impersonating Donald Trump. So take a sigh of relief whenever you feel compelled to do so.


    Kenya had its last presidential election on August 8. Those of you who know a little bit about Kenya’s political history have been asking us how the election went, and how it affected the kids at Jemo House. For those of you who do not closely follow Kenyan politics, however, let’s peruse a little history.

    Kenya’s political system is younger, having been established in 1964. In 2010, Kenya drafted and ratified a new Constitution, and there is now have a better dissolution of power after the establishment of 47 counties that share power with the Federal government. Kenya has had political elections since 2013, the elections occurring every 5 years. So, if you are following along and doing the math, the preceding election was in 2008.


    While Kenya has made a lot of progress politically, the 2008 presidential election was not a marker of that progress. The man who “won,” Kibaki, egregiously rigged the election. When nothing was done about the malpractice, extreme violence broke out between different Kenyan tribes, a result that came from the differing tribal heritages of the presidential candidates. Eventually, the UN stepped in, “solving” the problem by making Kibaki’s opponent, Odinga, Prime Minister. This meant that Kibaki and Odinga—the Clinton and Trump of Kenya—were partners. (Please take 45 seconds to take a sip of your coffee and imagine Clinton and Trump running the US together to give you an idea of the difficulties associated with the aforementioned “solution.”) About 2,000 people were killed in the violent aftermath of the election, and refugee camps created because of the election finally became unnecessary this past year.

    Knowing the history, many people were rightfully apprehensive as Kenya approached its most recent election on August 8th. Teenagers at secondary boarding schools were sent home, people stocked up on food, and the streets were deserted, the red dirt of the road untouched by footprints and tire tracks. Jemo House bought 2 months’ worth of food, storing 50 kg bags of rice and beans in our new storeroom—a luxury of security we did not have in our old building.

    On August 8th, Kenyans got in line before dawn, the majority of them waiting 6 to 7 hours to cast their vote. Voting in Kenya is seen as a privilege, as you need an ID card to vote, and possessing an ID card requires a birth certificate. While birth certificates are necessary and common here in the states, our team at TLC knows that they are not nearly as common in Kenya. 11 of the 14 kids we care for at Jemo House did not have birth certificates when they came to us, and we had to go sleuthing through hospital records and familial stories to make our best educated guesses at their ages.

    SelaThankfully, however, the past election went well. Sort of. The streets were deserted for a month and phone connections were limited, but there was little violence. However, the election was rigged, so there will be a revote in 2 months. While this is not the worst thing to happen, it means that children will be out of schools for another month while the country is shut down to preventatively evade violence. If you thought the Trump and Clinton race was bad, just be thankful machetes aren’t a commonly used yard tool here in the US.

    As for our kids at Jemo House, though, they are all doing well. They are safe and happy, playing in the yard around Jemo House as the last pieces of the new building come together. But they, like all children, are not oblivious. They are cognizant of the tension caused by the election and the vacancy of the streets. They know that their Kenya is colorful and determined and lovely, but they also know that their Kenya comes with its danger and fears.

    Our hope at TLC is that we can help all of our kids grow into adults who can change their Kenya. Not to be like the U.S.—the US is not a glowing example of inter-personal love and respect—but to be a country where families don’t have to buy 50 kg of rice and store it in their back shed, just in case.

    From all of us here at TLC, we hope this week’s Maseno Minute gives you a fresh perspective on Kenya, but also a fresh perspective on the politics in your home country. I know I didn’t have to wake up before dawn to cast my vote—though there are socio-economic groups in the US who face a lot of difficulty in the voting process—and I definitely didn’t have to stock up on Ramen Noodles and Strawberry Haagen-Dazs in case it wasn’t safe to leave my home. Not that we should be complacent about the current state of things, but I think it’s okay to thankful for the things we do have that aren’t so bad.

    Now go watch “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and share your reaction on Facebook for all of your friends who won’t read it while draining the last, delicious dredges from the bottom of your cup. From all of us here at TLC, we hope you have a wonderful, politically correct week.

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