A Swahili adage goes that the ear destined to die does not take its medicine. The electorate is the ear in this case. It’s quite baffling that Kenyans turn up in their hundreds, brave the heat to listen to a politician advice them about voter registration, constantly shouting excitedly at every word they (politicians) say, but only a handful of the people actually register to vote. Despite the momentum set by politicians from both government and opposition, and indeed the electoral commission the numbers of those registered so far this week are disturbingly low.
From the look of things, Kenyans – particularly the youth who form the bulk of would be first time voters – have no idea what is at stake for them. Without belaboring the point, the over month long doctors strike and the recent one by university lecturers are leveraging on the fact it’s an election year. Timing is everything in any activity one undertakes unless it is a hobby. Of course the unions may disagree on this but an election year is a good year to get the government’s attention. There’s a lot at stake and therefore demanding what was promised at this time is a smart move.
Why then can’t the electorate like the unions realize that this is a good time to flex muscles? One can only flex muscles having registered as a voter – otherwise you can’t scare the corrupt elected leaders who need to go home. Kenyans must realize that showing up for registration at Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) constituency offices and registration centres’ is more important than showing up at politicians’ rallies.
Politicians understand the season and they’ve hit the road running promising to do this and that. Interestingly, Kenyans don’t ask their elected officials hard questions, we complain privately or with peers but not publicly. Yet, Kenyans go hungry because of drought despite millions budgeted for mitigation that never materialized. The electorate remains unmoved despite others skipping work when it floods during the rains or are overcharged for basic services. Who bewitched us?
In December 2011 Nairobi Women Rep Rachael Shebesh’s complained that the coalition government liked working on a crisis mode. Six years later it appears the Jubilee regime has learnt nothing or perhaps has inherited this management by crisis method. Scores of Kenyans have died and hundreds others unable to fly abroad for treatment like our politicians continue suffering after doctors downed their tools for over 40 days now. Not to mention the Emergency service medical practitioners and medical school lecturers in the University of Nairobi also joined the nationwide strike followed by the medical students this week.
While local media reports that a new deal maybe reached the government having looked at the 2013 CBA article per article, one wonders why it had to take so long? Why intimidate them with jail term or replacement leading to needless loss of lives when they could have just sat down and put all cards on the table? That a government only responds when its public service threatens to go on strike is a sad situation.
Indeed the government can’t please every sector but someone in charge of these public institutions should foresee the challenge and act proactively averting any strikes or mistrust between the government and the public service. And such people should be held accountable. In fact, it was surprising to see the Health PS honored by the President at a time when the government had reached a deadlock with doctors and nurses at the onset of the strike. This act sent a rather strange message.
All in all there’s a strong lesson the electorate can take home from these strikes. The Collection Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) the unions are demanding the government look at, spell out in clear terms what they want, from fair promotion, good working conditions, and better pay among others. The electorate too should think of the promises the leaders they elected made and consider the advantage an election year brings. Kenyans must resolve not to be moved by emotional pleas and only consider leaders willing to look at the issues that matter to them. But all that is useless if you don’t register to vote. Let’s register to vote.