Political Crisis in Kenya Hits Women Hard

The crisis in my country has become a nightmare for me. My girlfriend and I woke up at 5am on December 27th, 2007, to head to the polling station since we both vote at the same station. We queued and waited patiently to cast our vote. We had been told that the polling station will be opened at 6 am. When we got there, we thought we would be among the first ones to vote but were surprised to learn that some Kenyans were at the polling station as early as 2am.

Prior to the elections, we had been told that our vote was important and that it will determine the destiny of our nation. With that in mind we went all out to cast our vote, very assured of the fact that it will definitely reflect what we wanted as a country. When tallying started everybody was excited as it started reflecting what we had in mind. Then the delays started. And everyone wondered except those who were looting the vote on why there were delays.

To make a long story short, the incumbent Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner amidst protests. The journalists were chased out of the room including international electoral observers and leaders, when the results were being announced. Later we were told via the national broadcaster (government owned) that the incumbent was the president and that the opposition leader Raila Odinga had lost the elections.

Immediately after this happened, we were shown the swearing in of Mwai Kibaki, without the presence of the diplomatic corps and the national anthem was not played at the state house (equivalent to the White House in the United States).

Now what followed soon after as if on cue, was violence in the major towns of Kenya and the capital Nairobi. Shops were closed and people stayed indoors as very many Kenyans expressed disappointment at the lack transparency of the process especially the tallying of votes. It did not help matters when the some electoral commission members said that they were not sure of the figures they announced, and the chairman later revealing that he announced the results under duress.

You might be wondering why am making a political statement out of a reproductive health website. Well, as usual with conflict, the people who are mostly affected are women and children. To make matters worse I live near the Nairobi women's hospital which has a gender recovery center that offers free services for women who have experienced violence. As I write this article the hospital has received 29 women and girls who have been raped.

As the political class debate on who won the elections women are being violated and few manage to get to the Nairobi women's hospital and report the cases. Since we are also cut off in terms of communication with a ban on live broadcast information from around the country is not readily available.

My worry is that women will continue to become statistics especially when there is conflict and especially sexual violence. I believe that Kenya will emerge out of this victorious but I also know that women will be the worse off when everybody has been satisfied with the verdict.

As we seek solutions and as people call for peace, I haven't heard yet the first lady say anything around the women who are being violated. The violence must end otherwise I will keep on updating you on statistics…one woman is one too many!

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  • invalid-0

    I am a reader based in Wyoming and to be honest and representative of approx 50-60% of Kenyans, this statement just isn’t accurate: “When tallying started everybody was excited as it started reflecting what we had in mind”.

    Who is the “we” in your statement above? Approx 47 of the voter turnout in Kenya’s recent election from my reading voted for Pres Kabaki. An additional 9% voted for the gentleman ranked third (Kalonzo) and who is now the Vice Pres in Kenya. Together, those who voted for both men constitute between 50-60% of Kenyans who are either supportive of or sympathetic to the Kabaki government.

    Please avoid these broad political generalisations and concentrate on the facts about how the situation is affecting the women and children in Kenya.


  • florence-machio

    Thanks for your comment. Most Kenyans who are mainly the poor saw how the tallying swang from one end to the other. On another note the media was updating us- kenyans who voted -on what was going on in terms of tallying. It is clear that the tallying was not transparent as clearly indicated by the chairman of the electoral commission. He made matters worse when he said he doesnt know who won the elections. This lack of transparency in the institution that was meant to show that elections were free and fair eroded the trust Kenyans had in it and therefore plunged the country into the chaos that followed. It is also clear that there are many underlying issues including economic and social injustice that need to be addressed. Unfortunately  peace survives in the presence of justice, which is lacking at the moment and rendering many women and children helpless. As I write now the many patients lying at the Nairobi womens' hospital have all been ganged raped with 75% of them being children.vote. If the people had believed the process to be free and fair , we would not have had the chaos we have . Unfortunately this is where we are and all these issues need to be sorted not just so that their is some form of peace but there is real peace in the country. It wouldnt matter who won if the elections were actually free and fair, the Kenyan poor know that the vote was the only way they can speak out and be heard and that has been eroded.

  • invalid-0

    Kenya would not have been in this current crisis had the will of the Kenyan people been respected. In response to ‘Anonymous’ above ‘We’happen to be the Kenyan People. An estimated 1000 and counting have lost their lives and over quater million remain displaced in their own country thanks to the incumbent Mwai Kibaki. If Kibaki had won this fair and square there would be no need for him to be sworn in ‘behind the scenes’ with no diplomatic corps present, and the international community. If he had the interest of the Kenyan people he would have allowed for a recount or run off for fresh elections . Four commisioners not to mention ECK Chairman Kivuitu have come forward to admit that there were irregularities in the electrol process and even go the extent of saying that they are not sure who won the election. The EU,US,Britain and other human rights bodies have also pinpointed irregularities. For Kibaki to even think of a government of national unity and yet he is in the office illegally is ridiculous! He was sworn in even before the winner of the election had been named. The national anthem of the country he wants to lead was not even played! Unfortunately there will be no end in sight for the crisis that is already tearing Kenyans apart if Justice, Reconciliation and Peace (in that order) are not brought to the fore. As the Kenyan Anthem Goes ” Haki Iwe Ngao na Mlinzi”