It’s a special day today, and Tyler Davis recounts his experience amongst enthusiastic voters as Kenya heads to the polls, everyone eager to leave their mark
Today is an exciting day here in Kenya. Today is Election Day.
Just how excited are the 19 million registered voters? I decided to join some Angama staff on their polling station pilgrimage this morning to find out.
By 05:20, an hour and a half before sunrise and 10 minutes before a scheduled 5:30am departure for the polling station, the first vehicle of the day is already filled to the brim and ready to roll. On a continent known for tardiness and thus bestowed with its own reference of time – Africa Time – this alone is testament to how excited Kenyans are to honour their civic duty and participate in today’s election.
Crammed with 15 people in our 11-seater safari vehicle, we bumbled off through the dark to Sabaringo Polling Station, passing en route small dazzles of peacefully grazing zebra, resting groups of impala, and even a herd of wildebeest – a spillover from the migration that has made its way up the Escarpment from the Mara below.
Though it is still very early, the ride is not silent, not by any means – there is lots of talk, lots of laughter. Jokes are being told and the enthusiasm is palpable throughout the 20-minute ride.
Elsewhere in the country, in more densely populated areas such as Nairobi, early birds have been queueing since 5pm yesterday evening – a full 12 hours before polling stations open. Here in the Mara, the Angama staff are first in line at 5:45am.
There is an armed military guard pacing around, as there will be at 40,000 other polling stations around the nation. He looks serious, but like he also expects to be a bit bored today, essentially acting as a line chaperone for the next 12 hours.
IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) officials are scrambling to get everything ready – there is new technology employed this year to confirm registrants before they can fill out their ballots (and prevent double-voting or other fraud). It’s built into some sort of iPad-sized tablet – an amazingly small piece of hardware to capture upwards of 700 voters throughout the day. Finally, they get it up and running and the queue begins to move.
As the first wave of Angama staff enter the converted classroom (Sabaringo Polling Station is actually Sabaringo Primary School every other day of the week), I watch how they flow through the system: first station, show your ID and proffer your thumbprint for registration; shuffle over to the second station and pick up the six ballots for the various positions on which to vote; take these ballots to the third station and fill them out; drop the completed ballots into the color-coded boxes at the fourth station; and finally get your pinky fingernail marked with an iodine marker before exiting the building.
Once it gets moving, I’m impressed by the efficiency, everyone moving through the classroom in a clockwise direction, assisted by IEBC officials along the way.
Upon exiting, fists are pumped, smiles are flashed, high fives and handshakes are given. There’s no reason to believe all these folks are voting for the same candidates, but that’s not actually what matters.
What matters is that they are all Kenyan, and they are afforded the opportunity to make their voices heard, to play a role in deciding the direction of their country’s future, about which they are fiercely proud. And the excitement continues.