You can tell by the way they are covering Kenya’s elections that the West is waiting for the East African to disintegrate into violence. Flip through any of the major newspapers and you will instantly be assaulted by fear-stirring headlines like: Hope and Fear in Kenya’s Election- NYtimes ; Kenya fears repeat of 2007 presidential-election violence – Toronto Star; 5 years after a disputed and violent vote – Washington Post.The message is obnoxiously clear - Kenya kindly provide an encore of 2007′s violent outburst war so our foreign correspondents can report of mass killings, burning buildings and displaced children.
March 4th marked an important day in Kenya. It was the first time that the country has gone to the polls since the shamefully violent election in 2007. Local reports indicate that save for a bloody skirmish in Mombasa, the voting process has been peaceful. Kenyans from sophisticated districts in Nairobi to under-serviced rural communities waited patiently in queues to cast a vote that could change the trajectory of one of the most promising emerging economies in Africa. As the international community awaits the results, there is a collective desire amongst Kenyans that there should be a decisive win. One devoid of the sort of creative accounting that leads to allegations of fraud and spurs the need for yet another power-sharing deal. But most importantly, one that will project Kenya as a bastion of progress and nullify the negative international coverage.
It is still early for any of the correspondents to predict a winner, so what has been captured are images from polling stations of people with blankets wrapped over their shoulders and fatigue drawn over their faces. In their obession to magnify the negative attributes of Kenya, the media failed to capture fascinating elements of the campaign trail about the likes of Martha Karua who is the only woman running for president or Muhamud Dida who is one of the youngest candidates to run for president in Africa. They definitely did not spare any ink to expound on the titillating rivalry between the front runners, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, two privileged individuals who lead the charge that Kenya’s presidential campaign is filled with recylced politicians. Odinga’s father was the first Vice-President of Kenya and Kenyatta is the son of the first President of Kenya. Rather, their lens has been manipulated to portray the Kenya as a volatile country.
I have been to Kenya. Culturally and geographically, it is a diverse nation with a politically astute electorate. Unfortunately every five years, the constitutional mandate for this democratic country to elect a new President stirs up deep-seated problems about economic disparities, ethnic rivalries and political ambition. Although these challenges are not exclusive to Kenya, the media is bent on using them as the colour palette to paint Africa as an unstable continent.
However, if the haggard reports from Kenya serve any purpose, it should point to the fact that there is a thriving country in the heart of Africa which despite its checkered past, remains an immaculate example of the relentless and indefatigable pursuit of happiness.
Photo credit: washingtonpost.com