Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Upcoming Kenyan Presidential Election

On Monday, Kenyans will return to the polls to elect a new president for the first time in five years, when the last presidential election precipitated fierce clashes between the various ethnic groups and tribes of Kenya. I recently read in the New York Times (you can read the article here) that although precautions are being taken by Kenyan officials and international officials alike to prevent another episode of violence like that which followed the last election, there are still some simmering tensions between some of the tribes and even a rumor that machete sales have risen steeply. Still, with new digital voting machines replacing the outdated, nonfunctioning manual voting systems and constant calls for peace in the media, it seems that Kenya is far more prepared than last election to prevent any outburst of violence that may follow the vote.

At our meeting last week, GlobalHealthU gave us some background of the political situation in Kenya and shared a video of a presidential debate between this year's Kenyan candidates. In small groups, we all noted that the debate was conducted very much like a "first-world" presidential debate, with live reporters who spoke flawless English, broadcasts transmitted throughout the entire country (and world) on multiple radio and television channels (and online streaming), and a patriotic opening of the debate with the Kenyan National Anthem. This certainly forced us to realize that Kenya is not a simple, undeveloped country as the Lion King suggests, but rather one of Africa's most modern countries that meets the standards of Western countries. Unfortunately, this isn't always positive: Kenya has a "swing-tribe" in this election much the way the U.S. has "swing-states," and this may exacerbate tensions between ethnic groups. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what the election brings!

Marisa M.

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