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How voters’ interests have been kept at bay as Kenyan political parties show off financial might

This post is also available in: Français (French)

Elections in Kenya are around the corner and like every other election, the stakes are at an all time high. The major political parties involved are not sparing anything to win the masses’ votes. Actually, there is one thing they are sparing but we will get to that later because it is not that important – at least to them.

The ruling coalition that brings together TNA (President Kenyatta’s party), URP (Deputy President William Ruto’s party) and several other small parties are this coming weekend collapsing into one political party known as the Jubilee Party of Kenya in which they will seek re-election. To that end the party is expected to spend USD 3 million on a 3 day event (other sources have put the figure at USD 20 million).

The party has engaged in elaborate branding which include a new state of the art Party HQ in one of the Capital City’s Suburbs, branded several top of the range vehicles and TV adverts with huge sums of money set aside as daily delegates’ allowances.

When asked about the extravagance, this is what TNA chairman Jackson Sakaja had to say:

It is not an extravagant use of resources. It’s an expression of the level that we have reached on political organisation in the country. I don’t think anyone should be apologetic for excellence in organisation or for raising the bar.

As the ruling coalition was finalizing on the details of it’s weekend party, the opposition’s ODM which is the the leading party in the Opposition Coalition CORD was planning on how to steal the thunder from Jubilee’s launch. On the same Saturday, they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary in Mombasa – on the Indian Ocean coast.

Tomorrow, the Deputy Party Leader will flag off 47 ODM branded buses from Mombasa to each of the forty seven counties. – Statement by ODM’s Director of Elections Junet Mohamed

The opposition party also plans to brand 823 vehicles and several helicopters to be used in the 2017 campaigns.

Even as this show of might happens, nothing is being said about how these political parties plan to improve the livelihoods of ordinary Kenyans. This tweet by someone referring to the First Lady’s campaigns to improve maternal healthcare sums up a concern that a lot of Kenyans have about misplaced priorities.

Earlier this week a hash tag #BringHellenHome was trending on Twitter. Hellen is a lady from Western Kenya who is stuck in India where she had gone for cancer treatment because of pilling treatment bills. Her case is not unique. Each year, hundreds of Kenyans troop to India for treatment due to the unavailability of adequate cancer treatment facilities in the country. This though was one of the flagship promises of the ruling government.

Another thing the show of financial might breeds is Kenya’s biggest social problem – corruption. As the political parties outdo each other in raising and spending campaign funds, not enough questions are being raised about the sources of these funds and what the contributors are being promised. In the last 3 years alone, Kenya has seen huge corruption scandals, some of which could be related to campaign funding.

Whether the voters will demand to be at the centre stage of the election campaigns and whether that demand will be heard remains an issue only time will tell. For now we can only be sure of more branded helicopters flying our skies and top of the range vehicles blowing dust on our roads as we stage yet another one of Africa’s most expensive election.

Daniel Okoth
Daniel Okoth
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