Vote for me!


It’s election time in Kenya. Through the smog of the city on my long commute home I can make out smiling faces of politicians on large bilboards. “Raila – One Determined Man” reads one. The newspapers are full of opinion polls and political intrigue (the latest story is about a supposed secret deal between the main opposition candidate and the Muslim community).

And on December 27th, the country will vote. They will decide whether the President who has overseen the recent upturn in economic growth has done enough to rule for 5 years more. One thing is clear, it is going to be close. And everyone’s votes suddenly matter, including the million or more living in slums in Nairobi.

mathare-visit-022-1.jpgOn Wednesday last week I went to visit a slum in Mathare, on the East of Nairobi. On the side of the road I saw women queuing up to collect water from a standpipe. “It won’t be here in two months time”, one of the locals announced. “I beg your pardon.” “It won’t be here in two months time. The government put it in place a month ago. Once the people have voted them back into office, they’ll just take it away again.”

By all accounts, corruption in Kenya is much less than ever before. And this tale is in fact very Western – the only difference is that in the West, the government buy votes with tax cuts, rather than running water.

I intend to return to Mathare in two months time and see if the water is still running. I hope I have to write the government an apology.

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