A 2017 election campaign rally.

Like Nairobi’s infamous matatus [mini-buses], the election is barreling along, many times on the wrong side of the law, the noise and vitriol of the campaigns drowning out common sense. For the terrified passengers, whether they — and Kenya — arrive at the other side in one piece seems to be coming down to a wing and a prayer. Patrick Gathara, a strategic communications consultant, writer, and award-winning political cartoonist in Kenya.

Kenya’s August 8 election: From now until the August 8th Kenyan elections are finalized, I will be reporting extensively on the election. During the Kenyan 2008 post-election violence, I made one or more reports almost every day until Kofi Annan settled the violence with the agreement that Mwai Kibaki would be president and his opponent, Raila Odinga, would be prime minister.

Cost of Kenya election: The total cost for the 2017 Kenya election by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is $480 million – $25.40 per registered voter. This makes the 2017 Kenyan election the most expensive ever in Africa. This bloated cost is mostly due to extremely high salaries of top election officials, considerable amounts of fraud, and the legal costs of all the cases of fraud and mismanagement filed against the IEBC.



Cost per voter
















The total becomes $1 billion if the money all the candidates spend is added to the IEBC total – this equals almost 1.5% of Kenya’s 2017 gross national product.

Tribalism: The bane of Kenyan politics is that people vote almost exclusively on tribal lines with in some places almost 99% of the voters voting for their tribal candidate. The intent though is that the best candidate should be elected, but when the only consideration is tribe, then the “best” person is not necessarily going to win. At the local level this “tribalism” continues by breaking into sub-tribal and clan differences. Therefore I was dismayed last Sunday when the IEBC listed in the newspaper the candidates from all the parties and included the tribe of each candidate. Isn’t this the opposite of the Kenyan national identity that the election is supposed to develop?

In Turbo constituency which is the “home” area of the Nandi, in the primary election for member of parliament there were 18 candidates for the Jubilee party slot. Since Deputy President, William Ruto, comes from this constituency, whoever wins this primary would normally be a shoo-in at the general election. Seventeen of these candidates were Nandi and one, Kevin Okwara, was a Luhya. Since the Nandi vote was split among the Nandi candidates, the Luhya candidate won with about 25% of the vote. The Nandi in the constituency were upset that a “foreigner”, as they consider people from other tribes who had moved into the area, won. The Nandi candidate with the highest vote then decided to run as an independent candidate in order to beat the outsider. I doubt that Okwara can win in this context.

Race for governor of Uasin Gisu county: In Uasin Gisu country which is just across the highway from our house and includes the large, cosmopolitan city of Eldoret, the governor’s race has already become violent when the supporters of the two top candidates clashed last week in Eldoret – two youth needed hospitalization. Due to the violence, campaigning for governor was suspended by the government. This is a Jubilee stronghold. During the primary election the current governor, Jackson Mandago, a Nandi, was challenged by Buzeki (full name, Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop), a Keiyo and wealthy businessman. Nandi and Keiyo are the two main tribes of this county with the Nandi the much larger group. As a result the recent clash in Eldoret was tribal based. When Mandago won the primary with 126,631 votes to Buzeki’s 82,869 votes, Buzeki considered the poorly run primary rigged and decided to run again as an independent candidate. Mandago has been charged already with hate speech against non-Nandi in the county while Buzeki’s strategy to victory is to get all the Keiyo and the other non-Nandi who have immigrated to Eldoret and resent the Nandi control of the county to vote for him. We will see how this turns out.

Presidential debate: There are eight candidates running for president, but according to polls six of the candidates poll together less than 1% of the vote. So the race is really between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and Raila Odinga of the NASA coalition. Last Monday night there was a prime time, one and a half hour slot for presidential debate for the top two candidates. Over 9 million people watched with many more listening on the radio. Kenyans are very passionate and involved in their elections. Uhuru Kenyatta failed to show up saying that the debate was a waste of time since it wouldn’t get him any more votes. As a result Raila had an hour and a half to himself responding to questions from the two moderators. The polls – it is questionable how accurate they are here in Kenya – show a dead heat with 5% or so undecided – these will be the ones who will determine the winner. One polling company indicates that the undecided are breaking for Raila. Uhuru has been soundly condemned by the media and social media for his failure to attend the debate. In my opinion if Uhuru loses the election, one major factor will be his failure to participate in the presidential debate.


Additions to HROC International Gathering:

Number of HROC basic workshops in last two years: As indicated from the chart below, approximately 459 HROC basic workshops have been done in the last two years for 10,123 participants. This would be 4½ workshops every week during this period. In addition there were many follow-up days, community celebrations, training of facilitators and healing companions, mini-workshops, and other related activities. Some additional HROC workshops which were not recorded may also have occurred, for example, in other parts of the United States.  Quite impressive if I do say so myself!


Basic Workshops


Burundi – HROC program



Burundi — FWA





1860 (est)

DRC – North Kivu



DRC – South Kivu




50 (est)

1000 (est)

Northern Nigeria


1140 (est)


90 (est)

1800 (est)

Northern Uganda



United States, Boise ID


100 (est)




Nigeria: The HROC program in northern Nigeria reported that they had completed 57 basic HROC workshops in the last two years. The participants for these workshops were internally displaced people affected by attacks from Boko Haram. While most workshops had been done with Christians, a few were held for Moslems. They have as of yet not been able to do combined workshops with Christians and Moslems together, but they hope to do so in the future. Most interesting was that they had done workshops for Nigerian soldiers who were fighting Boko Haram, wives of Nigerian soldiers who were fighting Boko Haram, and lastly wives of Nigerian soldiers who had been killed by Boko Haram – for obvious reasons, no pictures or reports were allowed for these workshops.

HROC Celebration for Gladys and me:

The plaque given to me by the HROC gathering participants. Note the kitenge shirt I am wearing.

At the end of the gathering, the participants planned a celebration for the work that I had done over the years in developing HROC. Since they knew that Gladys had accompanied me on many of my trips in the region, they honored her also – I thought this was very considerate of them. First there were speeches which were followed by presents. As those who know me know that I mostly wear colorful kitenge print shirts, I was given four of them. Gladys was given two along with some cloth and a large kitenge purse. These were accompanied with cards and plaques.

HROC-Rwanda (see picture above) wrote on their picture/plaque, “HROC Rwanda facilitators will always remember the cornerstone you laid to restore our hope.”

Innovations in Peacemaking – Burundi/HROC program wrote on their plaque, “CONGRATULATION. Dear Dave and Gladys, On the occasion of the 2nd HROC International gathering, we congratulate you for the successfully impacting the Burundi communities though initiatives grounded in Quaker values.”

The Friends Women’s Association wrote, “Dear Dave and Gladys, This is to appreciate your great support for the Friend Women’s Association. FWA has been marching ahead because of your hard work and commitment. Please, keep always in mind that you are saving lives. Many thanks for everything! Peace be with you! We love you!”

The gathering card said, “Our sincere and deepest appreciation for the compassionate heart, hard working and loving fatherhood attitude for all the times we’ve worked together.”

To conclude the Africans conducted an exuberant dance for our benefit. To view a 3½ minutes video of the dancing/singing that Gladys took, go to YouTube at https://youtu.be/uLsq7jEekwg. After the unpleasantness and hostility leading to my need to resign from Friends Peace Teams as AGLI coordinator, this appreciation of my work on HROC by the Africans is morale booster for me. Of course, I plan on continuing my involvement by organizing the HROC International Trainings and the Third HROC International Gathering in 2019 and advising new programs as HROC continues to expand.   


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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.


David Zarembka

Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC)

P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
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