NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 28- The echoes of women and children weeping, chants by angry protestors, disturbing sights of maimed neighbours, images of smoke billowing into the sky in most of Kenya’s informal sectors are still evident 10 years after Kenya’s 2007-8 dark moment – the memories remain fresh.
Those were scenes following a disputed election that led to the killing of more than a 1,000 people and left 600,000 others displaced.
Ten days to the 2017 General Election and Kenyans await the day differently, but one thing is for sure, the majority are anxious to see leaders of choice takes the day, more so in the presidential election.
But the anxiety is laced with fear of the unknown in case their preferred candidates is not declared the winner – how will they react?
It is a tale of slum dwellers who spoke to FM Capital News.
– Soweto Village in Kibera –
It is at 10am and the human traffic along the main road of Soweto Village in Kibera is huge on a working day, maybe because of the high unemployment rate in the area.
The sukuma wiki vendors have reported for their daily duty; another person one can be spotted preparing chapatis while others are seen in a nearby restaurant having breakfast as they watch a news programme.
A few metres inside the populous slum – the largest in Africa – a group of locals largely men can be seen speaking in low tones and after eavesdropping, I confirm they are talking about politics and specifically about the forthcoming elections.
Other than one poster of the area Member of Parliament, there is nothing to show the current political mood; people are interacting freely but their faces tell a different story.
– Darks memories –
Franklin (he declined to give two names) says he is excited to participate in his first election as a voter but hopes that “will not be a ticket to violence.”
“It is our responsibility to vote the leaders we want more we the youths of this country. We want to prove wrong those who think the youths don’t vote,” Franklin said during an interview with Capital FM News.
With claims of military involvement in the forthcoming polls, he says there is a lot of tension.
“Please just ensure there is peace and don’t use the military since we are not at war,” the 22-year-old said in sheng.
In 2007, though young at the time, he has a chilling memory of the aftermath of the elections.
“I saw people being killed on this road. Some of the things I cannot narrate…it was very painful,” he said, and after a pause added, “Yenyewe, yule mwenye atashindwa akubali aondoke (whoever who will lose should accept and let it go.”
His hopes are however high in the ability of the Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, whom he says “is equal to the task. Just like he did in the education sector, we believe he shall ensure no life will be lost or property destroyed.”
Such are the memories of 54-year-old Priscilla Ouma who urged Kenyans never to follow again the dark route of violence.
The mother of eight further calls on Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) to ensure the whole exercise is above board, “so that everyone can accept the outcome.”
“Ng’ama oselo to odhi oywe dala. Ok wadwar koko. Kwe ema wadwaro (The one who has been defeated should go home. We don’t want chaos. Peace is what we want,” Ouma, who switches from Swahili and Dholuo maybe to hammer her point home, says.
And to the youth, she says, don’t allow to be used to cause violence.
“Kijende wa, nyithindwa mawantiere go gikel kwe, kik kel goruok. Ng’ama oselo ema oselo. Wan wadak kanyakla ka (Our young men who live with us should maintain peace not bring chaos. The one who has been defeated is defeated. We all live together here),” she says.
“Kura en odi chien’g achiel. Koro wagore nang’o? Kik ng’ata ng’ata kel lweny. 2007 ne wayudo lweny ma wadhi wapondo mana ebwo kibanda. Sani wakwa Ng’wono. Kik wachak wagore (“Voting is only for one day, why should we fight? Nobody should start a war. In 2007 we were caught up in the war until we hid below stalls. All we want now is peace. We should not fight again).”
– Sarangombe village in Kibera –
We catch up with Vincent Otieno in Sarangombe Village and just like Franklin, he will be voting for the first time in less than two weeks.
To ensure there is a clear winner, he urges Kenyans and more so the youth, the majority of Kenya’s population, to turn out in large numbers and make their voice heard.
“I am ready to make my choice,” he says.
The village has been in the past known for violence but he calls on the government to ensure sanity prevails during and after the election.
“We just want security so that we can vote and proceed home to wait for the outcome,” he said. “The outcome should reflect the will of the people and there will no violence.”
– Tension –
Others, as established by the Capital FM News crew, have sent their children back to the serenity of their villages, where no person can lay hands on them because of a disputed election or their last name.
Their appeal is to the key presidential candidates, President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and National Super Alliance flag bearer Raila Odinga to prevail among their supporters to main peace during and after the polls.
Francis Mwendo a resident of Soweto says there is tension “since some people say there will be violence. I have taken my family back in the village since there is peace. After all, my children are not registered, voters.”
And while his wife remains in the city, “the following day after voting, she will also go home. I will be the only one who will remain here to take care of our stuff.”
One of the landlords in Kawangware who did not want to be named said some of his tenants have left and they intend to return after the polls.
“Yes, people are leaving town. Sadly some are registered voters,” he said.
Along Outering Road, one of the areas earmarked as a hotspot by the police, residents asked politicians to tone down.
“It is our leaders who will make us fight or remain in peace,” Boniface Muguka, a resident of Ruaraka Constituency said.
“This is not the first time we are voting in this country. Let whoever wins have the day while the loser accepts.”
For John Mathenge, a resident of Mathare slum, there is no reason why people should fight for the politicians.
“In 2007, this place was bad…I don’t even want to remember what happened,” he said.
“We were left without anything. I don’t see any reason why we should fight for who does not care for you. Let there be peace.”
Almost all informal settlements in Nairobi have been mapped out as hotspots.
But there are those who are optimistic that there will be no chaos saying Kenyans have learnt their lesson.
Their challenge to the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission is to let the will of the people be reflected in the outcome while ensuring security agencies are not involved in the electoral process.
NASA leaders have consistently insisted that the government intends to use the military to rig the poll an accusations that has since been dismissed by President Kenyatta and DP William Ruto.
– Kenyans peace messages –
Social media being one of the platforms where political venom is spread, some Kenyans have however resorted to defy the narrative and use it to urge Kenyans to maintain peace after the polls.
Like on Friday, a hashtag #MyTribeniPeace was trending, with Kenyans on Twitter being urged to shun tribalism and embrace nationalism.
From the tour in several areas perceived as hotspots, it is evident that the residents are shaken but determined to ensure peace prevails, irrespective of the outcome.