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On the campaign trail in Kenya

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 27 Feb 2013 10:30 AM
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By Katy Migiro, AlertNet correspondent in Nairobi

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

A 5.30 a.m. start yesterday. We drove through the city centre at dawn and on to Mathare, one of the flashpoints of violence after the election in 2007/08. Scores of children, smart in their uniforms, snaked along the side of the busy road on their way to school in the soft morning light.

We spent the morning filming with Nancy, who was raped and had her home burned down in the last election. She is looking for money to take her family out of town to stay with her uncle ahead of the election on Monday. She doesn't feel safe.

In the afternoon, we went on the campaign trail with parliamentary candidate Grace Omondi. At a public meeting, local officials warned voters not to get drunk and miss election day.

Parliament recently banned the sale of alcohol two days before the election. I was surprised but our Colombia correspondent, Anastasia Moloney, told me it has been the rule where she lives for several years.

A rowdy crowd of young men stopped Grace's car as she was leaving and started asking for money.

"Mkono mtupu haulambwi," they complained -- a Swahili proverb meaning an empty hand isn't licked.

Voter bribery is common in Kenyan elections. Wealthy candidates get voters to queue up to receive a dollar or so in exchange for the promise of a vote.

Grace gave them her phone number instead, promising to be an accessible politician if they vote her into office.

We spent a couple of hours hanging around in a printing yard waiting (in vain) for her campaign posters. Her bodyguards chatted about Monday's presidential debate on TV.

"It doesn't matter what the candidates say. Politics in Kenya is tribal and it will be that way for the next century," said one.

Exhausted, I left Grace at 6 p.m., still waiting for her posters while working her two phones.

Politics is really tough. Much as Kenyans deride politicians for their lack of integrity and false promises, it takes a lot of stamina to campaign.

I was glad my 12-hour working day was over. For Grace, the next one would be just as long, with a 4 a.m. start to appear on a morning radio show.

 For more from the Kenya Election Diary blog, please click here

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