Regina Opondo is the chairperson of Elections Observation Group (Elog)
I am an African woman born, bred and living in and passionate about Kenya. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a God mother.
What motivates you?
The potential that our country has. If we look at the Constitution, it is a country where rights are respected and everybody is treated equally and everybody gets their rights together.
What does your work as chair of Elog entail?
Elog is a long-term, permanent and national network which comprises of CSOs with the mandate of strengthening democracy in Kenya and Africa through promoting transparent and accountable electoral processes that include public participation. Elog has 4 organs through which it does its work; The Advisory Peace Panel, the Steering Committee, The Thematic Members and the Secretariat. I chair the steering committee, which provides policy direction and oversight for the organisation. This entails a lot of meetings; consulting, sharing findings, getting information and working with other groups or networks.
You recently deployed 1,700 observers to polling stations and 6,000 general observers throughout the country, what was the outcome?
As a permanent platform, we monitor elections throughout the elections cycle, that is pre, during and post-election. So in addition to the observers we had on Election day we also had long term observers from march observing voter registration, hate speech, violence, participation of women, youth and the disabled. From this work we are able to collect and share information about the electoral process.
Why did you opt for civil society and not any other sector?
I think I would not have made it in the corporate sector. I like the fact that I am working for citizens and finding room to make the change that I want to make.
What are your views on the relationship between civil society organisations and the government?
At the moment the relationship is very tense, we have seen attacks by the government entities calling us rogue, attempts to change laws and attacks on individuals yet it should be a work together partnership to develop our country. They feel that the sector is a security risk rather than a development partner.
What’s you take on the just concluded General Election?
The election process is not yet concluded, so we are still monitoring what’s ongoing like the presidential and other petitions.
What is your working day like?
It is never the same….. I usually get to the office by 6 am, some days I finish by 5 pm others by 9 pm. I could be in meetings with partners, colleagues, member organisations or wananchi. Sometimes I am out and about the country doing the same thing. Sometimes I may have to bail someone out of jail or if I am lucky I find my self in the same space with extraordinary Kenyans like Rev Timothy Njoya, Maina Kiai, Davinder Lamba, Gladwell Otieno, Njonjo Mue, Otieno Ombok. And I try to soak as much from them as I can.
Any recognition for your efforts?
None. At times I feel it’s a very thankless job.
What challenges do you experience in life?
Government shutting down organisations and the fact that the sector does not generate its own money. We do not have regular income though being an activist is not a bad thing.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I am working for Kenyans. I travel a lot to meet people.
Did you always wish to have such a job as this?
I had always wanted to help people and lead towards human right. When I was at the university I didn’t know how it would look like but later I got hooked
Are you married and how do you balance between your job and family?
Not married. I try to talk to my family daily and try to see them weekly. I’m also very blessed to have many of my family members as friends.
Which have been the highest and lowest points/moments in your line of work?
I get a high whenever I read the preamble of the Constitution of Kenya. It captures what Kenya could and should be. My recent lowest points was the death of lawyer Willie Kimani who was murdered together with his client and their taxi driver and the violence during these elections.
How do you unwind?
I watch movies, swim, cook and do arts and crafts. I find having do-it-yourself projects very helpful in releasing stress.
What philosophy do you live by?
Pay it forward.
Supporting our members to work with the new institutions coming in place. To push people to fight for their freedom.
Your parting shot?
We all need to play our part as Kenyans to push for a government and country based essentially on values of human right, freedom, equality, democracy, social justice and the rule of law.