Vying as an independent candidate in Kenyan elections has been on trial for two electoral cycles post 2010. This was a creation of the Constitutional reform process that was ideally fashioned to give freedom to individual political aspirants. The freedom not to belong to a party especially where there are none that present an aligned political ideology to them. It also gives one the freedom to conjure up their own ideals advised by the local concerns of the could be constituents. Thirdly, it provides the proverbial mock trial in case one is intending of forming a party. All these are very liberated ideals that were presented vide the Constitution however the citizenry does not understand this concept.
The usual alignments to parties of might is the what sells candidates in reality among our Kenyan voters. Indeed publications by many electoral observer groups note that voting for popular parties is usually the trend as opposed to ideologies with personality selling a candidate from party primaries to the actual voting day. Where does that leave Umboko*?
Umboko* was an aspiring the Member of County Assembly(MCA) in the county of Nakuru. She had consulted herself and the community and had decided to vie for the open county assembly seat as an independent aka kama daudi wa kichakani. Her weapons were her grassroot connections, smooth operators who had formed a clique of youth and chama mamas to be her campaign mobilisers, and of course God. She campaigns for three months door to door, church to church and through it she is faced with these questions:
- Which party is sponsoring you?
- Independent? What is that?
- How will you articulate our issues as an independent? You have to belong in order to have the national cake!
Unfortunately for an independent candidate you are your own motivator and idealist.
Voters listened to her and pocketed what she had to offer while the campaign mobilizers made sure she sustained their pockets. What no one told her as a daudi wa kichakani that even post elections she needed a support system. The campaign high that comes with elections that include being branded as ‘mheshimiwa’ can really get into your head to a point of it being surreal. Unfortunately, for her gender biases worked against her at the poll. Issues such as she has no home, no husband were used to measure her capabilities. Even more unfortunate was the the psychological torture she went through after the elections. Like daudi she was left in the den to save herself. There was no organised debriefing for her as she was daudi wa kichakani. Independent. The life she had envisioned for her community and herself had gone up in smoke with no support mechanism or convenient handout positions for an independent candidate such as her.
We need the Women’s Rights Movement fashioned as was in the 90s but designed for 21st century to support women like Umboko who are ready to stand up and face an election.