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Kenyan Voters Must Respect That Other
People Also Have Views And Choices?

Coastweek -- I have recently been lucky to attend several briefings by a platform called “Mkenya Daima”, writes Teti Kamugunda.

These briefings were geared to promoting a fair, peaceful and credible election. First who or what is Mkenya Daima ?

Mkenya Daima is a campaign that was inspired by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance or KEPSA but which brings together Faith Based Organisations (FBOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Vision 2030, the business community and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) in an alliance that allows them to create common messaging and ideas to promote peaceful coexistence.

The dividend for this peaceful coexistence is the long term prosperity for the country.

These are indeed noble goals but which are challenging to promise and deliver to Wanjiku.

The campaign is going through phase four since it was started in 2012. One of the most notable manifestations of the campaign is the song “Tushangilie Kenya” or which the promoters fondly refer to as “the Mkenya Daima song”.

If you haven’t heard it then search for it on any of the search engines on the internet and listen to it.

It is a truly patriotic song that has slowly grown in acceptance and is now played by most of the service bands, played in weddings and in many functions as a warm up or as background music.

The song was originally composed by Mwalimu Wesonga in the era of President Moi and lay lost in the history of that period.

For most Kenyans it sounded like most of the Moi era songs that were heavily laced in praise of the then President of the country.

However, as I was told by the chairman of the Mkenya Daima campaign, when they were looking for a neutral song, one of the members of the team suggested this song and having listened to it over and over again late into an evening during a planning retreat the team warmed up to the song.

They approached the composer who generously agreed to donate the song towards the campaign. It was rewritten and rehashed a bit by a team led by Mwalimu Wesonga and then recorded in early 2012.

It has since then been tweaked slightly and has become a very catchy and popular tune at government and other functions. It has displaced the old favourites in the service bands which have been the song “Kenya Chi Yetu” – a Fadhili William song which also had its vintage roots around the time of independence and “Harambee Harambee” by Daudi Kabaka.

So with the song out of the way, what else is the visible side of Mkenya Daima ?

Starting in 2012 as a lead up to the election the team started phase one of the campaign called My Kenya is.

This was to build up of a sense pride in what we as Kenyans would like to see our country be.

It was mainly an awareness campaign to publicise the initiative.

The second phase of the campaign was called My Kenya is not…

This was to celebrate what Kenya has achieved and also to handle the negatives that create division and reduce the esteem of the population in the eyes of peer countries and communities.

The third phase was My Kenya will be….

This was to introduce and reinforce the concept that just as we have rights as citizens of Kenya and the world, we also have responsibilities.

Most of us citizens had been very vocal about our rights – haki yetu – but very few of us had accepted that with those rights come responsibilities.

These were mainly defined by the values that are enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya, which also lays out the rights, but we had chosen not to be vocal about them because they cannot be guaranteed or provided by others.

Responsibility is a personal thing but whilst demanding rights may be personal, the provision is most often by third parties hence was an easy option.

The net result of all this was that by the time the third phase of Mkenya Daima was being rolled out towards the end of twenty twelve, the political class had changed from forever war and doom mongering to actually preaching peace during the political campaigns.

This was a significant change from previous elections.

The politicians had heard from all quarters, be it in church, mosque or gurdwara; harambee meetings or other social gatherings; seminars and training events – the message of peaceful elections was being repeated by wananchi in all forums and it would have been stupid of an astute politician to ignore what they were hearing.

And so we had relatively peaceful elections.

It was a first time for elections to be held under the new Constitution of Kenya.

The impact of devolution has nor been felt and there was great optimism in the air.

Now five years on, the landscape of running a devolved country has become a lot clearer and the stakes are high all round. Positions which are viewed as those with power to either extort or “eat” are very competitive.

There is one ward or Member of the County Assembly (MCA) position which has attracted thirty two candidates!

So even as we attend campaign rallies, discuss politics and engage in the political debating, it is important that we remember that the ideologies and affiliations that we have are not necessarily the only ones that can work.

They are purely an alternative that we have chosen.

We must respect that other people have views and choices which they similarly fervently believe in. There are also those who have no strong views or affiliations.

They have to be respected as well.

If we all accept this then we can approach political options from a mature and sane point of view.

We can indeed have an election that will be peaceful.

It is us who will cause it to be peaceful – not the candidate, not the political party and not the government of the country.

As Kachumbari says, the responsibility for peaceful elections lies squarely with us individually and collectively.

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