Each Other’s Promises

By Wanjiru Nguhi

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 my friend and colleague Wanjiru Nguhi, host of the “Mine is a Comment” podcast. I’ll be handing over this section of the newsletter to my fellow colleagues and to Baraza members from time to time, please do reach out to me 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. 

~ Christine Mungai, Curator

Silly season is upon us. In this season, politicians will ride donkeys, walk barefoot, and eat things in places that are supposed to show their “humility”. All this effort is an attempt to remind us how in touch they are with you and I. If you search for the definition of obtaining power by false pretense, I’m sure pictures of our Kenyan politicians will pop up.

We know these people by their stripes, spots, and claws. The leadership we have been exposed to especially in the past five years has tried and tested us in ways no citizens deserve. If their decisions haven’t killed us, they have left us traumatized, filled us with a sense of hopelessness and a legitimate apathy towards the electoral process.

Whenever so much power has been robbed from people, it is necessary for the people to build community and solidarity within themselves. If there is anything we continue to learn from this pandemic, it is that we can only manage institutional failure by being each other’s promise and hope. We already have a culture of what is now being called mutual aid – we fundraise for healthcare, collectively make noise about an injustice and comfort each other in the face of loss and heartbreak. 

It is also within these communities that we must organize and hold political institutions accountable. Community is powerful, but the center cannot and will not hold in the absence of holding political institutions to account and participating in political processes.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) recently began the registration of first-time voters, which will run until the 2nd November 2021. The reality about elections in this country is that names don’t just appear on ballot papers. There are various institutions that make those choices possible, and these institutions have disappointed us spectacularly. Another reality about elections is that electoral processes give us an opportunity to be heard.  Even though our voices are muffled, silenced, and overridden by algorithms, the electoral process remains one of the most critical political processes.

For local communities, the focus can begin at the County Assembly level. Members of the County Assembly (MCA) are the closest leaders to the people. They represent the ward which is the smallest county unit of administration. Holding MCA’s accountable politically as a community is possible and very critical. The quality of life we experience in our homes is directly affected by the quality of leadership at the county level. The tone of the county government’s leadership is determined by the caliber of MCA’s. My plea would therefore be for us to rise above the apathy we have settled into and register (for those that haven’t) and be very deliberate about the MCA we elect. Taking back our power is gradual and it will be collective.

Finally, we are still in the deep throes of this pandemic. My deepest condolences to us for the loss we have experienced and continue to experience. I am sorry to all of us navigating neglect on institutional levels across the continent. We truly are each other’s hope and promise. May we not forget that, and may we extend grace to one another and to the most vulnerable among us.

Let’s continue to mask up, sanitize and if you can get vaccinated please do. Please, please do. 

In the meantime, here’s:

  • What I am Reading: I am re-reading Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi. In this book, she bases the story of a female prisoner she met in Qanatir prison awaiting her execution. 
  • What I’m Watching: Right now as I type this, I am playing the Tiny Desk concerts on Youtube, on the NPR Music channel. Tiwa Savage, Jazmine Sullivan, and Yebba’s concerts are on replay because I am obsessed! 
    Also, I am catching up on Queen Sugar. A series produced by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. It’s a story of the Bordelon siblings in Louisiana and how they navigate loss, betrayal, racism, family trauma, and loving each other through all the life-ing going on.
  • What I am Listening To: Twenty One, a playlist from the very passionate playlist bender, Kophen. This particular playlist is a collection of Kenyan music and it blesses my life so much. 
    Adele… obviously. Obviously Spotify has picked up on my sad music preferences so there’s a whole beautiful selection of sad music.  

Wanjiru Nguhi.

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