Voters will be given six ballots of different colors with the name, party, and picture of the candidates for each position. The voter will mark his/her choice in the box next to the candidate’s name, fold the ballot, and place it in the box of the same color. If the ballot is placed in the wrong color box, it will be considered spoiled and not counted.

There will be many international observers to assess the Kenyan election. For example, the Carter Center is sending 60 observers, led by former Secretary of State, John Kerry. Unfortunately these observers will concentrate almost exclusively on the presidential election at the expense of the other elections. This is a shame since they will already be at the polling stations and all they need to do extra is to open their eyes and report what they see.

In 2010 Kenya adopted a new constitution. Under the old constitution, as needed by the colonial regime and inherited by independent Kenya, power was concentrated at the center in Nairobi with an all-powerful presidency controlling all aspects of Kenyan government. The new constitution included “devolvement” by reorganizing the country into 47 counties, each headed by an elected governor. Two additional elected positions were also added – a female representative from each county and a senator from each county. So each voter will vote for six positions – (1) president/deputy president, (2) member of the national assembly, (3) senator, (4) women’s representative, (5) governor/deputy governor, and (6) member of the county assembly (MCA). 


Heavy Rain pours as NASA supporters remain steadfast cheering candidates in Kisii. Note that the supporters are mostly young males – unemployed youth are available to attend rallies, perhaps turning out for one candidate today and a rival candidate on another day.

In the 2013 election, the first under the new constitution, many prominent politicians ran for senator rather than governor. The experience of the last five years has shown that the senator position is weak without any patronage, while the governor position is powerful because it controls the county’s resources. For example, in the 2013 election Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, the father of Academy Award winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, (Twelve Years a Slave), was elected as a senator from Kisumu County, but this time he is running for governor of Kisumu County.

One of the main wildcards at the local level is the rise of the independent candidate from 350 in the 2013 election to almost 4000 in this election. It is not clear at this time how many of these are “vanity” candidates, now many are sore losers from the poorly run primary elections, and how many are truly independent. Undoubtedly some are going to win. This has an important implication. Currently Uhuru and Ruto have a majority in parliament so it has been easy for them to push through whatever bills and laws that they want. After the next election the winner is unlikely to have a majority in parliament. As a result it will be much harder to push through controversial legislation. While some commentators consider this a negative prospect, I myself see this as a positive development. Considering the current situation in the United States where the Republicans control the presidency, senate, and house of representatives, people there will certainly understand.

The position I noticed with the most candidates had 16. While many will receive few votes, the winner may win with around 25% of the votes. In Jubilee where all supporting parties had to fold into one, many losers in the Jubilee primary then decided to compete again as independent candidates. With the NASA coalition the various political parties joining the coalition continued to nominate their own candidates for the five other positions. For example, here in Lumakanda, the Orange Democratic Party (Raila), the Amani Party (Mudavadi), and FORD-Kenya party (Wetangula), all part of NASA, each has its own candidate. Jubilee also has a candidate and even though this is NASA dominated territory, the various candidates associated with NASA may divide the vote allowing the Jubilee candidate to win.

I want to stress that the elections for these five other positions are extremely important. In the last election, although Uhuru/Ruto won the presidency/deputy presidency, the opposition won the governorship of many of the large cities – Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Kakamega, losing only Eldoret and Nakuru.

 Opposition PM Millie Odhiambo in parliament. Another MP, now running for governor of Nairobi county on the Jubilee ticket, called her an “old school street bitch”. Note the sparse attendance and the males all around her.

Women in Kenya have a tough time winning elections. The Kenya constitution requires one third of all positions to be held by one gender (i.e., women), but this is hardly ever followed. In the last election the president/deputy president and all 47 governors were male. This time there is going to be at least one female governor since in Kirinyaga County the two main candidates are both women. Each county has a women’s representative in parliament, but during the last five years these women have not been prominent. Perhaps stronger candidates will win this time. Women are told during campaigns that they should be staying at home taking care of their husbands and children. An unmarried woman, no matter how old, is not considered “mature” enough to be a candidate. Women candidates frequently are harassed. One recent headline reads, “Female Candidates Face Violence and Abuse Ahead of Kenyan Election.” The worst case occurred during the April primaries when first one of the most outspoken women, Millie Odhiambo’s (MP for Mbita constituency) bodyguard was run over and killed by a man driving an opponent’s vehicle and then a few days later her house was burned down. At the end of the election, I’ll let you know how the women have fared.


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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)

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