Fellow Kenyans, I know we are all rushing at the last minute to register to vote. Some of us have been too busy at work to find time to visit a registration station, and that’s understandable. Some of us have just not prioritised the process. That’s also understandable… sometimes. Kudos to those who have registered, those who have checked and double-checked their registration.
Kenya could use more people like you.
I know you believe that you are a model citizen and on that August morning you will queue for hours and proudly exercise your democratic right (duty?). Some of you are even planning to share your ink-stained fingers on Instagram and Facbook to confirm your participation. Good for you. But may I ask that you consider this truth for a moment? Your vote is not the solution.
You see, voting is the most visible part of the democratic process, but I am convinced that it is not the most important. Some of us treat voting as if it is the only responsibility the citizen has. We vote and have over the reins to the elctorate and then sit back and waiut for magic to happen. Allow me to burst your bubble. Voting is not THE solution.
However, voting is a solution. Voting counts, so please go out there and let your vote be counted. However, many of us act as if the right to vote is equivalent to democracy. Being a citizen in a democracy is much wider and involves much more than spending a few hours every year to mark an X on a piece of paper and shoving it through a slit on a plastic vote.
I’m sorry to say this but, whoever you vote into power does not hold the silver bullet to all your country’s problems.
The reality is more complex. Real change is incremental, it takes time. Real change is communal, it takes all of us. Not just all of us registering to vote or showing up to vote, but all of us embodying that democracy every hour and every day of our residence in this nation. For democracy to work, all citizens must keep doing what we can in our circles of influence to be the change and advocate for change.
Where do you work? What do you care about? Are you an engineer? Then pay attention to the policies on construction and infrastructural development. Offer your expert opinions on those buildings that come crashing down on widowed mothers and their poor children. Resist that bribe and give up that questionable contract. Then go ahead and push your boss to push her bosses to push the policy makers.
Use your rare expertise and experience to highlight cases of bad policy and bad (or lack of) implementation in your circle of concern. The same applies to doctors and lawyers and journalists and social workers and musicians. Work for more than just a living. Work for a better work environment and a better economy.
Spend the four years between elections actually helping your politician’s manifesto come true, even when that politician abandons it. Your power is not restricted to the vote. Your power is only symbolised by the vote. But the real work happens as life happens. The real work happens in advocacy and water-dispenser conversations and boardroom meetings. Bad politics does not just thrive because of bad politicians, bad politics is watered and nurtured by a bad polity.
We all count for more than just being counted every five years. So get out ther and register to vote and then make the time to vote come August. And after that, go back home and be the change that you voted for. This is the only way we will get the Kenya we want.