“He can’t win!” said GG in response to my inquiry on what he thought about Rimunga’s chances of clinching the Member of County Assembly (MCA) seat in the 2007 general elections.
“What!?” I asked in shock.
“To win a political seat in Kenya, Kim, one needs to be ready to sleep with an HIV positive woman.”
I felt bad. Really bad! I heard GG’s voice in the distance as he continued talking, probably explaining his statement. I wasn’t listening. I was furious at him. How could he talk like that? Rimunga was my close friend. GG was too. He was also a man of God. A pastor. How could he say such things? He finished speaking. We walked in silence under the huge, tall trees in Gojo technical college compound. Dry leaves complained under our feet. It was a calm day and the trees seemed to be mourning. I wondered if they were pitying GG for his dirty speech.
Months later, the election was held and Rimunga lost. Badly! He trailed two of his rivals distantly. He was stressed. Depressed, actually. Rumor had it that he was hospitalized for days. He never mentioned it to me, but he was MIA for a while after the results were announced.
You see he had resigned from his well-paying job to run for public office; Used his life savings in the campaigns and even sold his own and his family assets when funds started dwindling. He could not have helped it. He so wanted to serve his people who loved him; They explicitly said it, sang his praises, and promised repeatedly that it was him they were going to elect. They would gather in groups and call him to address them after which they would expect some money. He frequented funerals and weddings and Harambees. His people addressed him using the titles “mweshimiwa” or “mutongoria”. He had to keep the campaign fire burning and the only way to do that was to get more and more money. People needed it to be supportive.
Rimunga’s campaign experience was no different from Manyara’s in 2017. Sharing it in an article dedicated to his supporters, Manyara noted:
“The society makes it [the campaign] ‘easy’ for you… they make many groups and ensure they invite every candidate… all the groups [had no objective other than] to raise funds… voters rush excitedly when they hear you are in the area, they would smile and say how much they loved you. But the moment they realize you will not part with money, the fake smiles disappear, and they start insulting you and shouting your rivals’ names.
In many cases, political candidates start their ambitions to serve with good intentions, but voters treat you like a cash cow, and if you are broke, a communicable disease is better than you!”
What a shock it was for Rimunga, and indeed, for all of us who genuinely supported him! When he lost, I started pondering the happenings of the campaign period. I thought about all the gatherings he had attended and addressed. All the conversations I had had with him and with other people. Most of all, I contemplated the chat I had had with GG. I spoke to several people more open mindedly about the “mis-election” of Rimunga. It is then that the meaning of GG’s statement struck me. He had only been intending to point out the extent to which politics is dirty. It resonated with what Manyara said in his post-election article referred to above:
“Many women want to identify with [you], some of them offering free sex and many more related activities.”
So, who makes politics dirty? What role do politicians play? How about the electorates? I think our extreme demands from politicians, whether elected or yearning to get elected have soiled our society. When we ask so much of them, while promising our votes, their first order of business when they get elected is likely to be repaying themselves and probably pay their debtors. Manyara points out that the greed and heartlessness of our politicians, results from the heavy price they pay to get elected. He cautions that every time we ask for money from politicians, we are encouraging them to steal our taxes to meet those needs. As we complain about the corruption in Kenya, we certainly should think about the part we have played in it.
NB: Some names have been altered for confidentiality.