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How the young and restless could change Kenya’s political future

MCA candidate Samantha Maina on the campaign trail. PHOTO Credit: Peter Doerrie.

The headlines after 8 August will be about Kenyatta vs. Odinga. But the real contest for Kenya’s future is being waged at a more intimate and local level.

Nairobi, Kenya | AFRICAN ARGUMENTS |  There is an epic battle afoot over the future of Kenya, but it’s not happening where you might expect. As the 8 August general elections approach, the ever-closer contest for the top job is understandably getting much of the attention. But given the only minor differences in their political platforms, it’s unlikely a Raila Odinga presidency would produce markedly different outcomes from a second term under Uhuru Kenyatta.

The real fight for Kenya’s political transformation is unfolding elsewhere and being led by a new generation.

One of those leading this fight is Eddy Oketch, who is running for senate in Migori in western Kenya. He is one of a number of young candidates across the country to have emerged from the country’s social and human rights movements.

For contenders like Oketch, running for office is not just about changing political outcomes but also the modes through which politics is conducted. This has led to some distinct approaches to electioneering.

“My style of campaigning is community-based,” says Oketch from the back of his black SUV as it barrels out of Migori town, his driver nonchalantly accelerating over speed bumps. “Most candidates just go to big rallies with loud music. I meet with people in their communities. I sit down with them in their houses and talk about my policy. They tell me about their issues, I tell them how I think our country should be run.”

The car swerves right and enters a patch of grass between a few houses where around 150 people are waiting. The crowd is made up of locals that the wannabe senator’s advance team has identified as influential.

Oketch jumps out to greet them. What follows is a lively back and forth, alternating between questions from the audience, unabashed campaign rhetoric, and civic education on the role of senators. As the young candidate had promised, this is no typical Kenyan campaign rally.



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