Last Tuesday Kenyans went to the polls and I voted in 45 minutes. It was an improvement from 2017, when it took me over two hours to vote.
During the 2013 election, the exercise was chaotic. So if my experience is anything to say, in terms of logistics and planning, the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has improved.
However, even on this point, gaps, shortcomings and glaring inefficiencies remain. For example, there have been too many failures of the Kiems (Kenya Integrated Elections Management System) kit in several parts of the country. With the election approaching, the IEBC had shown – despite the warnings of some – an unyielding faith in the sustainability of the kit. Then there was the ballot mix-up that caused the electorate to postpone the elections of deputies and governors in certain precincts and counties.
Our elections must also improve the issue of gender representation. An overwhelming majority of people vying for the various seats are men.
Women seeking elective positions are disadvantaged by lack of finances and a deep-rooted patriarchy that still sees women as part of the household.
Women who are unmarried or divorced are ashamed of their status. Prior to this election, a politician insinuated that Martha Karua, running mate of Raila Odinga, and Charity Ngilu, outgoing governor of Kitui, were not family-oriented due to their marital status (Ngilu is a widow).
The sexualization of female politicians led Wangari Maathai to challenge her male political opponents to focus on the part of her anatomy “from the neck up”.
The other missing part in our elections is the link between our material conditions and the kind of leadership we elect.
A candidate’s history, background in office, character and ideas should all be criteria for his assessment as a leader. In our situation, the fact that a person has been convicted in court, or faces serious criminal charges, or has at some time committed atrocities against the people, etc., does not seem to matter. ‘importance. We are driven by tribalism and all kinds of fraudulent gimmicks.
At one time, a politician became so popular through his antics, which included inciting violence, that he had a choice of elected office. He became deputy in two different constituencies, then governor of Kiambu County. Yet he had never been associated with a single useful idea or legislation.
Our media must also improve their critical assessment of candidates and their proposals. For months, the media has been repeating, without question, outrageous lies peddled by a candidate who claimed that selling marijuana and hyena testicles could help the country pay off its debt in a year. By not offering counter-arguments, the media legitimized his goofy opinions.
Africa’s development crisis is fundamentally a crisis of leadership. We will remain stagnant until we resolve this fundamental crisis.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator