You have voted - now your work as an active citizen begins

Monday August 28 2017

By NANJIRA SAMBULI
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August 8 has come and gone. We turned up in impressive numbers to exercise our democratic right, and placed faith in the responsible institutions to make it count.

The following days were filled with anxiety and hope in varied measure. Disappointment and excitement for our voting outcome manifested. Some got their candidates of choice, many others didn’t.

Unfortunately, lives were lost, property destroyed, the spirit of many broken following the announcement of the Presidential results.

As I write this, the sun is finally back to shining in Nairobi, the gloomy skies that loomed through the past couple of weeks seemingly gone. We are settling into the post-election phase.

There will be those who retreat to their various quarters, to eke out a living, to survive, to thrive. It may be because they’re satisfied with how things have played out, and the dust may have settled for them.

There are many who very likely feel disillusioned, who are questioning if their vote mattered. They, too, may ‘accept and move on’, while others might continue to push and strive for the representation they now have to matter, to work for them.

All feelings are valid, as we are all Kenyan. The road ahead must be inclusive for us all, regardless of how we did or did not vote. This is perhaps the biggest task ahead, for the electorate and their elected representatives alike.

I wonder if this election cycle is one from which we have emerged with a renewed understanding and appreciation that the scope of our civic duty does not end at the ballot box.

The opposition coalition, in their announcement that they will contend the Presidential results before the Supreme Court, have showcased this. As Raila Odinga stated, “[they] will not accept and move on”, challenging the incomplete cycle in which we keep finding ourselves.

ALLIANCES AND COALITIONS

For the rest of us, especially those contending with the reality that their candidates of choice didn’t win in respective posts, there are a number of ways to stomach or challenge the ‘accept and move on’ framework.

On one hand, an easier path to tread might simply be to resign to the fate presented us, and move on to ‘life as usual’ as may be defined.

There may be little to no incentive to engage going forward, and leave that to those who got the leaders-elect they wanted. It is an understandable, perhaps even justifiable, stance.

On the other hand is possibly a road less travelled. That of (re)configuring active citizenship and exercising of civic duty, in spite of who was elected.

One of figuring out mechanisms to articulate issues we’d like addressed by MCAs, Women Reps, MPs, Senators, Governors and even the highest office - the Presidency- alike.

One of building alliances and coalitions around issues, to ensure they are represented and addressed by the various offices. It is also one of seeking a better understanding and distinction between all these avenues of  representation.

CONSTANT ORGANISING

That is, what issues are to be addressed by your MCA vs MP, or Senator vs Governor? How do we seek audience with them, set the agenda, or monitor their promises and manifestos?

A path less travelled, as it is one that requires time, energy and constant organising. One that definitely challenges and redefines the ‘accept and move on’ framework.

Having accepted whoever holds any office, moving on to holding them accountable every step of the way, rather than waiting for them to ride out their five-year terms, then to reactively apply the ‘fagia wote’ rationale if dissatisfied with their record.

Travelling down this path calls for new and old forms of organising alike. Grassroots movements, political party membership, civil society recalibration, perhaps powered by these digital tools that have been leveraged for opinion sharing, calls to action, crowdfunding, awareness-raising, propaganda and misinformation alike.

An opportunity presents itself to claim these platforms to power active citizenship over the next five years.

Will it happen? Will a critical mass dare to travel down this latter path?

UKWELI PARTY

I would argue that we have little choice but to dare, as the futures relegated to dreams and visions are at stake.

The just and peaceful societies, the institutionalising of reforms that outlive charismatic individuals to reshape public service, the sound economic environments we need for our businesses and hustles to thrive: I don’t know how we achieve this by taking the resigned approach to ‘accept and move on’.

I am thankful for what nascent institutions like the Ukweli Party have showcased during this election season: a roadmap for political engagement.

Despite not registering any wins at the ballot, this party dared to do things differently and I hope that once energies are rejuvenated, we will continue to see them challenge us to engage, to organise, to articulate, to invest - financially and otherwise - towards the political changes we want to see. This is a huge win that must be celebrated.

More Ukweli parties, more discourse, more organising is needed for this ‘baada ya vote’ period. It can be done, but will it?

Twitter: @NiNanjira