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November 21, 2018

Positive spin on repeat election

Nyeri town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.
Nyeri town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.

As a candidate in the last general election, I can confirm that elections are terribly trying periods, especially for candidates.

I also tell my friends that I have nothing but the utmost respect for candidates who lose elections.

Yes. I know that sounds funny. But I know how much running for Nyeri Town MP took out of me. I also know what I felt after the election was over. I then try to imagine that I am feeling that way, and I won, on my first attempt! Now what about people who lost, and maybe for a second or third time?

This brings me to something that is happening in Kenya that we seem to not have noticed; that could be the only silver lining of a really bad decision by the Supreme Court.

It is the output of campaign direction that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have taken, and then forced all those of us who support Jubilee to take.

It will fundamentally change how Kenya operates post-election, for the first time ever, and prove to all and sundry why Uhuru deserves to be President for a second term.

Let me go back to my first paragraph above. Elections are terrible times. In their wake they live disillusionment, hatred, disappointment, pain, economic instability and social division.

These effects are felt at national, regional and local levels. These effects are also not exclusive to Kenya.

These effects were felt after the August 8 general election, in families, villages, communities, counties, regions, and nationally. Kenyans were left split at very many different levels.

Then the Supreme Court decided that we need to repeat the presidential election. Uhuru and Ruto were upset; and they had good reason for it.

They felt deeply cheated out of a very obvious election victory.

In 2007 Raila also felt deeply cheated after what he believed was an obvious election victory.

His reaction was to go to war, literally. He split the country into ‘us’ versus ‘them’, denounced entire communities, called for public demonstrations that turned into inter-ethnic murder sprees; and in 60 days over 1,200 people were killed and property worth billions of shillings destroyed.

Kenya lost its standing globally. By sustaining the divisions that are natural after any election he got into a coalition government. That is how he ‘won’. It is the same strategy he is trying to implement today.

Fortunately, Kenyans know how that ended, and it is not working for him.

Now compare this with how Uhuru has dealt with his disappointment.

First, he has literally forced all of us who won in his strongholds to reach out to those who lost, and work together to campaign for him.

Then he is aggressively campaigning in swing areas, where he split votes with Raila, and reaching out to winners and losers to work with him towards the election, and after.

Finally, he has sent emissaries to the regions that did not vote for him, and they are, very humbly, day in day out, knocking on doors trying to build bridges of reconciliation.

Of course, what Uhuru is doing is about winning the election on October 26.

But he had other options, which included doing what Raila did in 2007. He, however, chose to build bridges, not walls.

He has reached out to people who spent the last five years insulting him. He has spent a lot more time wooing regions that did not vote for him than he has spent in his strongholds.

His message is peace, unity and that elections should not lead to enmity.

By the time he is done Uhuru will win the presidential election on October 26 resoundingly.

He will also have moved Kenyans, across the board, into a unity that we have not had in decades.

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