The patriotic call to duty was what ran through Elizabeth Mwende’s mind as she braved the early morning cold and long queues to cast her ballot last Monday. She had keenly followed the call to get out and vote over the weeks preceding the elections, and even though she was seven months pregnant, she decided to heed it.
“There was this one advert that stuck in my mind; the one with the tagline ‘Nitakuwepo’”, she says. “It tugged at my heart and I decided I will be on the line on Monday to do duty for my country.”
And so, seven months pregnant, Mwende woke up at 3am and headed for the polling station in Muthurwa, Nairobi. After hours standing in the line, voter’s card and national identity card in hand, she developed premature labour. Onlookers say it was a scene straight from a movie set. Mwende looked disturbed, then clutched her stomach and went down on her knees. A crowd gathered around her to see what was happening, then her water broke.
It took about 10 minutes for the baby to come, by when other women who were with her in the queue had surrounded her with lesos to protect her from prying eyes. The baby boy, whom she named Amani, was born at the polling station, and shortly afterwards both baby and mother were rushed to Pumwani Maternity Hospital, where we found them hours later.
What intrigued many at the polling station, however, was the determination to vote that Mwende displayed. Even after giving birth, she asked the polling clerks whether they would let her cast her ballot, and they obliged before she was driven to the hospital in an election-observer car.
Mwende gave birth at 6.15am and arrived at the hospital 40 minutes later, where baby Amani, weighing slightly over one kilogramme, was immediately put in an incubator because he had developed breathing problems. A matron at the hospital told DN2 that, because the baby had been born prematurely, he was likely to stay in the hospital for some time.
“We suspect that the breathing problems were caused by the cold the baby was exposed to,” said the matron. “Premature births are best done in warm environments.”
Still groggy from the medication she had been given, Mwende said she was glad it had all come to pass, and that Baby Amani would serve as a constant reminder to her of the lengths to which she went to honour the call to national duty.
“I wanted to part of Kenya’s history in electing the leadership of this nation,” she said, her voice weak from the effects of the ordeal. “I have a strong vision for this country, and being part of history was all I wanted. I did this for Kenya, because I want change for the country.”
This was Mwende’s first time to vote, and she hopes to do it again, and again, and again.