Home » Opinion Leaders » Open letter to Kenya’s middle class: Patriotism goes beyond social media

VIMAL SHAH

Dear voters,

Do you know just how crucial your vote is to the future of this country? Why are some of you so indifferent to politics? Why is it that rather than get directly involved in politics you choose to take to social media to air your views?

Your apparent apathy to Kenya’s politics worries me. While I do agree with you that a lack of true leaders amongst many of our politicians is the reason this country is not as economically developed or as ethnically tolerant as it should be, your lack of interest in politics is also partly to blame for this leadership void.

Taking to Twitter and Facebook to ridicule politicians and whine about the loss of the ‘better candidate’ in the recently held party primaries cannot be defined as active involvement in politics or the running of the country; going out to vote can. As much as discussing so-and-so who shouts the loudest in and outside Parliament but has little to show for bettering his/her constituents shows that you have an idea of what is going on in the political arena, statements such as ‘I could not go out and vote because I didn’t have time’ show that you do not care for your country as much as you would like people to believe.

It is a shame that many in the middle class have taken a back seat when it comes to politics. You need to understand that your vote counts just as much as that of the politician and the low income earner, and that no election is too trivial for you. But you seem not to know this, which is why politicians always by-pass you in favour of the masses who are willing to cast their votes for those whose policies they know nothing about.

If you think I’m wrong, tell me: do politicians hold rallies in Kileleshwa or Karen? Why do they always retreat to the low income settlements if their inhabitants do not matter? They do this because they know you will not vote anyway!

A report released by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in January 2012 estimated the number of Kenya’s middle class at 17 percent of the population. Although this means that the middle class is by far out-numbered by low income earners (the World Bank estimates that 44 to 46 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line), it also means that this class makes up a sizeable chunk of eligible voters.

The middle class can influence the direction this country takes just by being a little more interested in the political affairs of this country. It is not just about talking to your gated-community neighbours about how poorly run this country is; it is about positively influencing everybody you come into contact with, including the domestic workers and others you rely on to keep your home/office/business running.

Every day in our papers we read that Kenya’s middle class is growing, backed by figures that show, for example, that the number of personal vehicles on our roads doubled between 2002 and 2007. If that is true, then the influence of the middle class should also be growing. If the middle class contributes so much to this economy, shouldn’t this same class actively participate in the running of the same economy it helps fuel?

You cannot afford to scoff at the masses that attend mid-week rallies held by politicians, logging onto your social media profile to call these Kenyans ‘idle’ and point out that these Kenyans are there because they are jobless yet politicians do not care. Remember that these ‘idle’ Kenyans are the same ones incited to violence so they can earn a few shillings. Remember that these same Kenyans are willing to fight for what they believe in, be it right or wrong. Many of them are very smart young people who have not had any economic opportunity to partake in development.

Your indifference to politics is not a sign of your superiority over the ‘easily misguided’ masses. By hiding behind social media instead of queuing to vote, you are saying that you do not care about Kenya. By refusing to use your power to vote you are relinquishing any right to comment on the affairs of this country, be they social, economic or political.

As we head towards the March 4th 2013 general election you need to demonstrate that your patriotism is more than wearing a ‘Proud to be Kenyan’ T-shirt bought at your local mall. You need to show that you understand the Mkenya Daima campaign encouraging Kenyans to be ‘wenye nchi’ and not just ‘wana nchi.’

You have shown that you can use social media to make a difference, as evidenced by Twitter campaigns such as #Kenyans4Kenya. It is now time to get off social media and take action: be one of the voters who will queue to vote on March 4th. It is time to take the future of this country into your hands, and not only on your keyboard.

Our country needs you. Vote for integrity and vote for the people who you think will bring the change and the future that you desire – but please DO GO OUT AND VOTE!

(The writer is the vice chairman of KEPSA and chairman of the MKenya Daima steering committee)

 


  • Elijah Odhiambo

    Vimal Shah..i can’t agree more!

  • edmus

    This is spot on. When some Kenyans are putting their lives in danger in Kismayu, fighting for the dignity of this country, surely it cannot be asking for too much for one in Kileleshwa, Karen or Westlands to wake up and go to vote.

    I promise my country that on 4th March 2013, i will wake up and go vote to determine the direction it takes for the next 5 years. I call upon those leaders who will be defeated to accept our verdict and look for another job.

  • http://twitter.com/bugzville58 bugzville58

    in 2007 the kenyan middle class was accused of doing nothing just hiding in thier homes in the leafy suburbs and venturing out when the dust settled. At least now they have moved a set forward to engaging on twitter and facebook. Next step getting out there and engaging, definately it wont be done in a day but at least the middle class are doing something so its not all doom & gloom

  • Blake

    This article is great but it fails on one major score….the so-called middle class has always voted in great numbers at every general elections. A casual survey of the “chatting classes” on social media will tell you that most have voted before and they hold voter cards ready for March 4 2013. Back in 2007, I even saw lots of Asians queueing for hours in various polling stations in Westlands constituency to cast their votes. The real disappearing act happens at the party nominations or primaries….and for very good reasons. They are shambolic, chaotic, violent and a mockery to democracy. This is what Vimal should have been addressing and not creating the misleading impression that the middle class actually stays home during the main election day!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553518734 Seth Muriithi Imanyara

    Blogs are part of the social media platform by the way. We all want a better Kenya and this isn’t the time to point fingers and pass collective judgement on scores of Kenyan souls you’ve never met. We all make a contribution in own way.

  • http://twitter.com/JMKayongo JMK

    You guys no matter what this time elections will be done in a free & fair way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.makori.37 Kevin Makori

    Maybe the root of the whole ‘middle class’ problem is that we don’t have a middle class in the first place!Look at the people who qualify to be called middle class in other parts of the world-they have a significant voice in their national issues, certainly because they take voting rights as pertinent to their existence, in fact its like they know that their very existence depends on how they vote..I guess what Kenya’s middle class needs is something that will mobilise them, say massive job losses, paycuts or other siginificant economic catastrophe!if you think am joking, look at what the economic pitfalls in USA, UK etc, did to voting patterns in the stated countries..Unless of course Kenyan middle class is in its own class!!

  • Kasami

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