Why Election Period Saddens Me

I am sad.
My heart is heavy.

I have had a hard time articulating my feelings this election period. Trying to get to the bottom of what is making me sad and why it is making me sad.

(Yes, this is something I do. Lie in bed and attempt to decipher my feelings.)

I have debated for quite a while whether I should ‘say’ something. Being the most escapist person I know, confrontation avoidance is a trait that is strong within me and some of the threads I have seen on social media have been loaded with confrontation. How easy it is to utter an unkind word when…when there is distance. When you are not there to witness first hand the effects of your words. When you do not have to take responsibility for them. How careless we can be with our words. Shame.

Besides the fear of confrontation, another reason I have been hesitant to ‘say’ anything…
Let’s be honest.
The thing about Kenya, and we all know this, is that it is easy to tell what part of the country you hail from by your name. ‘And it is never harder to read text on its own terms than at election time, and harder still when the subject is so charged.’
I have been unwilling to let my sadness, how I feel, be so easily brushed aside, put in a box, carelessly attributed to the fact that my surname is Siminyu. (That’s with an N guys. Not a typo.)

Final reason I have not wanted to say anything; What does it matter? Does what I think matter? Does what I say matter? I’m an individual. Not even a powerful one. All 34 people subscribed to my blog are the only audience I can genuinely lay claim to.

“ and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive”
—Audre Lorde

Here’s what is making me sad. 2007. 2013. Now 2017. These are the elections I can consciously remember.

For me, who sits at the presidency is inconsequential. There was no discernible difference in my life when one person was president versus another. I still had to go to school. Study. Sit my exams. Find a job. As an individual, it is business as usual. Tomorrow and the day after and for the next 5 years, I will go to work as I always have. I will work towards my goals. I will grumble about how unbelievably high we are taxed. I will turn up every once upon a Friyay. I will sigh and say ‘This is Kenya’ when the next billion shilling scandal is splattered across the dailies for all of 9 days. We will all go back to business as usual.

Until another 5 years elapse.

In another 5 years, I will be even less enthusiastic about election period. Even more skeptical about those selfies on voting lines and inked fingers. All the patriotism of voting day always, always, always, and when I say always I reference 2007, 2013 and now 2017, always very quickly decays. In less than 24 hours, we go from being patriotic Kenyans to being individuals from different ethnic groups. The decomposition of who you are.

It saddens me that elections in Kenya are merely an ethnic census.
It saddens me even more that my generation, I was hopeful things would be different with us, is steeped knee deep in this.
It saddens me most that I will not live to see this narrative change.

Things will quiet down in the days, weeks and months to come, but that will not change the fact that this country is broken. Every 5 years, those cracks will come alive and I do not know that I can do anything about it. This is what has been gnawing at my innermost.
Morbid countdown to 2022. When we do it all over again.
Contemplate that.

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9 Comments

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  1. 4
    Cynthia Okech

    My heart is heavy too, I tried to keep silent but I couldn’t. I am almost embarrassed to be part of this county, yet I cannot escape it.
    Kenyans have betrayed their own motherland, and we now see how rotten the country is to its core.

  2. 8
    Robin Nyore

    Hey Kathleen, I can relate and I need your help. I am starting a page called Save Kenya – Kenya ni sisi na sisi ni Kenya. Honestly the rhetoric that rings out from our so called leaders is pathetic and somebody needs to counter that and remind our fellow brothers and sisters that we are better. Will you help?

    • 9
      kathleen

      Hi Robin,
      Sounds like it could be an interesting project.
      Before I so quickly commit to helping, hearing a bit more about what the website will be about/do and what you hope to achieve through it would be great.

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