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Kenyans’ optimism rises after election of new leaders

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Optimism among Kenyans has risen following the successful conclusion of the Aug. 8 general election, with many citizens expecting the new leaders to help improve lives.

This is despite the fact that the fate of the presidential election winner is in the hands of the Supreme Court after opposition leader Raila Odinga said he Wednesday would challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win.

Many citizens are watching keenly how the dispute would be concluded but this has not stopped them from having faith in their other elected leaders who include MPs, members of county assemblies, senators and governors.

Some 25 governors out of the 47 in the country lost their seats as voters rejected incompetency and in some cases bad leadership.

The election also saw voters elect several women and the youth to various seats, what is pushing up optimism among citizens.

“I am happy that we have a new, young governor in Nairobi,” businesswoman Faith Wakiru, who runs a clothes shop, along Moi Avenue said Thursday. “I am among people who patiently waited for five years to send the other leadership home,” she added.

One of the things that made the outgoing governor lose, according to her, was poor management of garbage and high taxes.

“For such a shop I pay 75 U.S. dollars to be able to get a licence to run it for a year. This figure was doubled when the current governor came into office. It is too high because our businesses are smaller and we don’t make much,” she said.

Her hope is that the incoming leadership would better the working environment for traders like her and others who include hawkers.

“All I want is for the governor to reduce the licence fee to 40 dollars or even less and collect garbage regularly and ensure that we have water,” she said.

The incoming governor, Mike Sonko, has promised to clean up Nairobi city, create jobs for the youth, eliminate traffic jams and generally better the welfare of residents.

“Currently I am helping the county clean up the streets and pull down campaign posters, a job in which we are being paid 5 dollar per day by the new governor. If he has started this way, then life may be better under him,” said Martin Momanyi.

In Kakamega and Uasin Gishu counties, where residents retained the incumbent, optimism is also high with the electorate expecting a lot from the leaders.

“I am a maize farmer and the agriculture function is devolved. What I expect from my governor is employment of more extension officers to help us produce food. I also expect him to boost access roads to farms,” said Bernard Chibole from Uasin Gishu on phone, adding he is optimistic the leader would do the work.

From their legislators who include senators, woman representatives and county assembly members, Kenyans expect better legislation and help to fight corruption by checking governors and the national government.

But it is on the president that expectations are higher regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

“Both the Opposition and the ruling party promised free education, better healthcare, monthly remittances to the old, over a million jobs, more loans to university students and better healthcare, among others. I am optimistic that these were not empty promises. If they are implemented, life would be better,” said university student Cleopas Marambi.

Marambi, a final year commerce student, further said he is looking forward to a one-year government internship programme Kenyatta promised.

“It is the reason I voted for him and I am happy that he won, but if the win is overturned by the court, life would go on as even Odinga said he would increase loan allocation to university students. The 400 dollars we currently get is so little,” he said.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that the optimism arises from the fact that the electorate believe they threw away bad leadership.

“Most of the leaders lost their seats because the electorate saw they did not deliver their promises. The new leaders must therefore have learnt a lesson and would thus work hard to deliver. It is on this premise that people are optimistic,” he said

However, he cautioned that leaders must find ways to manage peoples’ expectations as failure to deliver on the promises might lead to despondency. 

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