Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kenyan's New Constitution Election - celebration or fear?

On Monday morning, when Mel and I arrived at work, we received a wonderful surprise! Because of the elections for Kenya's new constitution, we had the day off on Wednesday. While we quickly brainstormed on how we would spend our unanticipated day of freedom, many Kenyans were anticipating how thier lives would be impacted by this historical event.

In 2005 and 2007, Kenyans experienced turbulent elections wrought with controversy and outbursts of violence, but if there was trepidation about this election, it was not heard or felt at Yehu. It was business as usual.

It wasn't until Wednesday afternoon when I started receiving emails from my very concerned mother that I even thought about safety. Mel and I spent hours at the beach during the day, and other than being surprised that it was relatively empty for a holiday and seeing what we assumed to be a post-election party being set up in someone's back yard, we wouldn't have known a historical election was happening.

However, just to play it safe, we decided to stay in the rest of the day and check the internet from time to time to see if there were any election day surprises we should know about. Later that night, we heard the music and celebrations, which indicated that things must have gone well and we wouldn't have anything to worry about.

The next day at work was abuzz with everyone anticipating the announcement of the results, people showing us their pinky fingernails that had been stamped with ink to indicate they had voted (to prevent double voting), and sharing perspectives on their votes. One of the senior staff members shared with us that it was her first time voting. She felt like voting was much more important this time because it would change the history of Kenya and she wanted to be part of that. After the announcement of the new constitution passing, we were able to witness some of the celebration in the streets on our way home and I was able to snap a couple pictures from our matatu window. Although it wasn't my constitution and future being impacted, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement and feel a bit of victory nostalgia.

Congratulations to the Kenyans for this monumentous event in their history! Overcoming their previous election precedents and have a positive new start to their future governance is definitely something to celebrate!

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