How Kenya's elections affect BeautyWaps

BeautyWaps’ initial plan was to distribute the kits to the schoolgirls in Nairobi in August, but the political environment made it complicated in terms of safety. We wanted to describe this political event – the Kenyan elections - and why the situation there generates conflicts. 

On August the 8th, the Kenyan people voted for their new president (but not only). The general elections in Kenya are also called a “six piece” vote, as they combine the votes for member of parliament, senator, women’s representative, county governor, county assembly representative and President. Normally, the same coalition wins every ballot, making it easier for the new government to put its policy in place. This year might be different and might change the political equilibrium in Kenya, partly explaining the tensions around this major event.

The two main candidates were President Uhuru Kenyatta (son of Kenya’s founding president who stayed in function for 13 years) and Raila Odinga who was a political prisoner and son of the first vice-president of Kenya. The polls had a hard time showing who would likely be the next president. Both already have experience in politics, Kenyatta being president since April 2013, and Odinga having been prime minister between 2008 and 2013.  The participation rate for the elections was high, and the population seemed engaged in the political future of the country. The first results were announced on August 9th, giving 55% of the votes to Kenyatta. But the presidency of Kenyatta was not approved by the opposite side because of close results (55%-45%) that are considered by them to be attributable to a hacked voting system. The voting system in Kenya uses an electronic voting equipment, whose efficiency is questioned. In 2007 and 2013  Odinga had already contested the results. In 2013 this protest lead to violence and 1 200 deaths.

Following the announcement of the official results giving 55% to Kenyatta, Odinga has accused the polls of having been hacked. In fact, the Official who was charged with overseeing Kenya's election system was tortured and murdered just a week before the election. The popular uprising started to get more and more violent, despite the declaration of the African Union which considered the poll to be legitimate. In this climate, at least 26 people were killed, and a lot injured. The international community hopes that the violence will end soon. In 2013 the tensions lasted 2 months, and in 2007, 1500 people died during the post electoral riots. The major issue is that each candidate is a sort of representative of one community of Kenya, making those elections a revival of old conflicts and hatred between the different population groups. The Kikuyu are 22% of the population and supposedly vote for Kenyatta who also belongs to this ethnic group. The Luo is the major non Bantou ethnic group in Kenya, and are expected to vote for Odinga. In 2007 the riots were mainly said to be based on those distinctions. In 2017 the situation might have changed. Many people believe it is actually social inequalities and a gap between generations that drive people into this conflict. Odinga was the candidate the most supported by young voters disappointed by Kenyatta’s politic. 

We were able to be in contact with the director of Destiny school, and he explained to us how this affects directly their lives and the situation of the school. Everyone stays at home for the moment, avoiding the hostilities of the outside. The school area is particularly affected, explaining why the school closed temporarily. It reopens on Monday the 28th, the safety of the children and the people working at the school being the major priority.

Joséphine Desportes


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