, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3- She comes running after realising we were almost done with our interviews.
It is at the heart of Mathare in Nairobi where Capital FM crew had on Friday pitched tent to do a spot check after days of heightened tension following the repeat October 26 presidential election that was boycotted by Kenya’s Opposition chief Raila Odinga.
“I want to send a message to our leaders,” Stella Mwende, who is grasping for breath said.
The single mother wanted ample time to vent out after being indoors for weeks, hoping the future will be bright, and an area she has referred as home for years will again be conducive and warm for her family.
Hope that her neighbours will see her as that, and not a Kamba from Machakos County.
“I am a single mother with children in school, I am their father and mother,” a visibly distressed Mwende said.
Her job, she says, depends on the same people who are fighting for the politicians.
“I sell clothes and food. Since October 26, I have only been in business for two days. How will I feed my children or pay for their school fees if we will be engaging police in running battles on a daily basis?” she queried, posed for a few seconds, as someone expecting a real-time response.
Before the political uncertainty, the 39-year old says she used to earn Sh3,000 on a daily basis, but this has been reduced to a few hundred or none.
Mwende has not paid her rent for three months but that does not top her list of worries.
“My firstborn, a 12 year old, just did her KCPE. I need money in January to take her to secondary school…where will I get money if the only job is running up and down because of politics,” the mother of two said.
Her appeal to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Odinga is, “please agree on the best way to this country. We are suffering.”
Until then, her family will continue to miss or have a single meal per day, an excruciating reality.
That too is the tale of 10 of other families of slum dwellers in Mathare, Kawangware, Kibera and so on as established by our interactions.
The middle class has not been spared either.
But the pinch is being felt most by economically modest Kenyans, a majority of whom participate in every election, as mere voters, and who often display immense love for their specific leaders of choice.
Both Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta enjoy a fanatical following in majority of Kenya’s informal settlements, where they often retreat when they want to make ‘serious’ political statements.
– Tension –
Arika Bir is a boda boda rider in Mathare and says there are no customers.
Reason being, “people are living in fear while some have either gone back to their villages or they are staying indoors.”
In a day, Bir would make a Sh1,000, a target that has proven hard to hit, with the current political quagmire.
“My appeal to our political leaders is, sit down and talk because your differences are making life really hard,” he said.
“If they (Kenyatta and Odinga) can agree, us down here will be happy. We want our life to continue as before.”
People have been injured during fracas in Mathare, some killed, he points out, saying “this must stop. We belong to one family. Fighting cannot get us any solution.”
“We don’t want Kenya to be like Rwanda. We are a leading economy, why can’t we also continue to be a peace tower as before?”
– A reflection of August and October –
It all started when Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled President Kenyatta’s victory, following a petition by the long-time Opposition leader, Odinga.
The court cited irregularities in the manner in which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission transmitted the outcome from polling stations to the National Tallying Centre.
A move that attracted mixed reactions from Kenyans depending on their political affiliation.
President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and other Jubilee leaders said they had been denied justice since the numbers, (Kenyatta garnered more than 8 million votes in the August poll) were never questioned.
“I respect the Supreme Court’s decision but I don’t agree with it. Millions of Kenyans queued and voted, but six people have decided that they will go against the will of Kenyans. Again I say, the court has made its decision and we respect it but we do not agree with it,” the President said on September 1, the day the court delivered its decision.
The court, however, directed the electoral body to carry out a repeat election with 60 days, which happened, but Odinga called for reforms at the IEBC, which termed as irreducible minimums, for him to participate in the poll.
Among the demands was the removal of several IEBC officials he accused of bungling the August 8 poll.
Eventually, he remained true to his words and together with millions of his supporters, they gave the October 26 repeat election a wide berth.
But in between, several NASA strongholds experienced demonstrations that would often turn violent.
According to police, 19 people have been killed during the electioneering period, but right groups give a higher figure.
For example, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit has released a report detailing 36 deaths, all of which were blamed on police brutality.
The Kenya National Human Rights Commission, a State organisation, says 17 people were killed before and after October 26 election.
Property of unknown value was also destroyed in areas like Kawangware, where youths burnt down several houses.
The effect of this may be far reaching if the planned NASA economic boycott is successful.
When the day of reckoning comes, Kenyans will have to deal with a hurt economy where the majority poor will be worst affected.