When Kristoffer and I moved to Kenya in 2007, we were pretty naive. Or really naive. Or maybe even incredibly naive. We convinced our families that we were moving to one of the most peaceful democracies in Africa and boarded an airplane with 6 suitcases and 2 backpacks. Little did we know that a few weeks later the country would plummet into a crisis that it is still reeling from even now. I can still hear my mother on the other end of the phone when we finally got through to tell her we were OK saying, "We're watching CNN. They are killing each other with machetes!" I blogged often about my understanding and perception of the events of early 2008 here...but now I find it really embarrassing to read those blog posts! I have learned and experienced so much since then.
So here we are now...and Kenyans are going back to the polls. There are many good articles out there about what it's like for Kenya right now and you can easily find them on your own (just really try to avoid CNN if you can...honestly). I admit that I am a little bit obsessed with this election, considering that we don't live there anymore. I am reading everything I can. Talking to whoever I can about it. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach knowing that some Kenyans had already been at the polls for hours waiting for their turn to vote. Rose is here with us in Tanzania and is worried about her family. She told us that they didn't move to hiding because there would be no TV and they want to be able to watch the footage and results. Let's hope that was not a mistake. We usually do not pay to have cable TV but did so last week so that she, and we, could all watch coverage on the Kenyan news.
I guess I still feel connected to that time and place...having seen the best and worst of Kenya in the 4 years that we lived there. I am not worried about violence today. I am not worried about violence tomorrow. I am a little worried about violence towards the end of the week...but more so about violence following the almost-inevitable run off between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. One candidate needs 50 percent of the vote in order to win the election, but with 8 candidates and about 90 percent of the country evenly divided between those two politicians...it just looks like the current, extreme tension could end up following a similar path to last time. It is so much more complicated than I realized 5 years ago, so my knowledge and understanding have changed quite a bit. But my hopes for the country have not.
I hope that all Kenyans are able to vote without being intimidated or fearing retribution against their families. I hope that the political and yes, even tribal, leaders in Kenya encourage their people to be peaceful, to be humaniarian, to be democratic. I hope that nobody has been procuring arms or planning attacks "just in case." I hope that the election is fair...and that the winner is not just the best of all cheaters. I hope that Kenyans can show the world their better side...embrace their unity along with their diversity. Kenya has been its own worst enemy, but I hope today it is its own best friend.
All eyes on Kenya.