Daring to Believe 

This week’s newsletter is continuing the tradition of inviting members of our community to write From The Curator’s Desk, and for this edition, I’m happy to hand it over to Benter Dongo, who is the Executive Assistant & HR at Baraza.

Please send your guest writing pitches for this section to rose@barazalab.com if you’re interested in writing this section and you have something of interest to share to our community — a trend you’ve noticed or something you’d like us to think about. (Baraza Curator Christine Mungai is away on extended leave).

~ The Baraza Team

By: Benter Dongo

Why do I vote for this system that seems to always let me down, I ask myself? Why vote for a government that I feel has starkly failed me for years?

I will save you the troubling statistics; just know that I share the sentiments of a multitudinous lot, gravely affected by a deep, despairing apathy. I can’t pinpoint one good reason to exercise this civic right. 

There are many moments I have side-eyed this country. I remember the 2007 election aftermath when I watched a good portion of Mathare burn to the ground in front of my bewildered 10-year-old eyes while around me my everyday neighbours turned on each other. I remember that for a good while after my campus graduation I hit the tarmac job-hunting every day; there was one boorish hirer asking me for sexual favours in exchange for a dream job. I remember all the times I stood as a helpless witness to daily news reports of the billions of shillings lost daily to corruption while my compatriots alongside me went through unfathomable suffering. More recently, I remember walking with Mum for miles in search of maize flour. Not so long ago, I had begrudgingly purchased it at Ksh 220 a packet. Now there is none in the shops. 

Give the devil his due – I did enjoy the benefits of a bursary from the Constituency Development Funds in my first year of secondary school. At the touch of a button, I have applied for crucial documents on e-Citizen, the government’s digital service platform. I have travelled to the coast on revamped roads in five hours where before it took an excruciating nine. And when stranded in West Africa at the height of COVID-19, desperately trying to get back home, I felt this nation’s concern as my every query, every fear was addressed. You get my gist? I could go on. 

And so I head out to vote. “Dear daughter, vote in party X – top to bottom, understood?”, my two mothers from different communities remind me as I make my way to the polling station. ‘’You know I am 26 and ‘woke’, right?” I chime coyly in response at both the one who birthed me and my godmother who guides me. 

On arrival I find that the electoral commission has outdone itself. Compared to the 2017 elections there is extreme order and superb service. The broadcast on Citizen Live says that out of over 22 million registered voters only 12 million have shown up to vote by 4 pm. That’s  56.7% of the total as.  

I stand in the booth at midday on the 9th of August 2022. It is a very private moment. I have stepped away from the memories of my helplessness, memories of the times that political leadership failed me. I have decided, instead, to honor my ancestors. I vote to honor the courage of those long forgotten kin who even with their inferior tools stood against a wicked system, stood against skepticism all around them and fought for their future offspring. They fought for me. 

With poignance, I think of my unborn children, in decades to come. I want to have that moral authority as I teach them the intricacies of democracy and the importance of honoring their civic rights. I will tell them I was there in the historic moment when Kenya broke with patriarchy and embraced three women as presidential running mates on the ballot, six decades after independence. I will tell them I turned out to vote from a lopsided sense of patriotism that ails many my age. I will tell them I showed up for them.

Frankly‌, I still don’t know how my voting fits in this huge complex puzzle, but I will be part of it, even if it is just an iota. I show up because showing up to face a system that repeatedly lets you down speaks volumes. And just before 6pm on 15th August as Kenya’s electoral commission prepares to announce the final tally I am clear that whichever side of the fickle political coin I wind up on I showed up as a testimony to my faith in the future of Kenya. 


In the meantime, here’s:

What We’re Reading

Is cross-dressing to be banned in Nigeria?

A bill making its way through the Nigerian parliament seeks to outlaw cross-dressing. The goal is to strengthen provisions of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Is cross-dressing to be banned in Nigeria?Act (SSMPA) that has been in force since 2014. However many see its direct target as Nigeria’s LGBTQ+ community. Read the full article.

What We’re Watching:  

Humanity comes first in the African value system “Ubuntu”

In the tailwinds of the closely contested campaign and elections in Kenya and a result that remains in dispute, a reminder of that which binds us above everything. The African philosophy of Ubuntu has its roots in the Nguni word for being human and is echoed in so many Bantu languages across the continent. If you follow the footprint of these echoes you will be amazed at how far it spreads. To name a few – “umunthu” in Chewa of Malawi and Zambia, “ubuntu” in Zulu and Xhosa of South Africa, “ubuntu” in Kinyarwanda and Kirundi of Rwanda and Burundi, “utu” in Kiswahili from Kenya and Tanzania, “munto” in Kimeru of Kenya, “umundu” in Kikuyu of Kenya, “omundu” among the Herero of Namibia, “botho is Tswana” of Botswana, “kimuntu” among the Kongo of Angola, DRC and the Republic of the Congo, “ibuntu” among the Tonga of Zambia and Zimbabwe and “Omundu” among the Luhya of Kenya. Ubuntu emphasises our shared humanity. Watch it here.

What We’re Listening To:

What’s wrong with the Fourth Industrial Revolution – We’ve grown used to the digital tools that increasingly surround us and make life so much easier; mobile money, car navigation systems that tell us the quick way to get around, personalized search recommendations and so much more. They’re all perks of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR), a term coined in 2016 by German engineer, economist and founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. 4IR is used to describe the technology-led revolution that has been taking place since the mid 90s with the most recent advances bringing artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering, quantum computing, and so much more. But is it all it is touted to be? 

This podcast from Pasha asks whether the 4IR agenda is being driven towards a specific economic outcome for the benefit of a few. 

As always, 

Christine Mungai

Curator | Baraza Media Lab

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