The Ballot – Wafula p’khisa

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August 2017. It was nearly half past ten in the morning. The day, my father would say, was tender like a young girl who has not lost virginity. But it was dull and cold. The sun hadn’t shown its face yet. It was still wandering secretly beneath the sky as though it had a quarrel with the earth. It had rained heavily the previous night and dark clouds still hovered above us, making us afraid that it could rain before we set eyes on the ballot.

We had left our homes at cock crow to arrive at the polling station in time. We couldn’t wait for the cargo trucks the aspirants had hired to ferry their supporters. Nobody wanted to find the queue stretching from here to heaven and die of exhaustion even before casting their vote. It had been, as part of our effort to consolidate our votes and make our voice prominent in the region’s political forum, to mobilize people to go and vote early.

”Murunga is taking this thing before mid-day,” someone said, ”That boy Sabuni can’t compete with an elephant to shit.”

The ballot boxes hadn’t arrived yet. So everyone delved into chit chat to kill boredom.

Everywhere, there were posters of two men who were considered as the main horses in the race to the August House. Murunga and Sabuni had been allies before Sabuni opted out of Unga Revolution Movement (URM) to chart his own political path. He was now challenging Murunga on a Red Eye Movement (REM) party ticket.

Murunga was defending his seat for the sixth time. For the twenty five years he had been in parliament, Natero Constituency had been ranked last due to poor infrastructure, poor health facilities, misuse of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and insecurity among others. He had been overheard saying that people shouldn’t smile at having electricity for it will burn them. Perhaps the only thing he did was distributing mosquito nets and giving pregnant women ksh 500 every month for filling homes which, to him, were more votes. But whenever we were cornered in public, he would say, ”We’re in the kitchen cooking.” So we needed to be patient and wait forever. This is what Sabuni had come out to challenge, promising to provide good roads, empowering the youth, improving health facilities and education through proper use of the CDF.

”My people, I may not have anything to offer for now. But if you consider and elect me to serve you, I’ll create opportunities for each one of us to earn a decent living,” he said, ”Don’t be fooled by Murunga’s empty rhetoric that ‘we’re in the kitchen’ yet you are hungry and sick while his stomach bulges. Don’t be fooled by the ksh 200 he is giving you. That’s your money. Take it and ask for more. In fact, if I hear that you refused to take his money, I’ll clobber you…”

He had gathered a good following. But because everyone was hungry, the listened to him and ran to Murunga’s to eat and drink. Voters are like chicken which only follow he who feeds them. Even as we queued to vote, Murunga’s agents slipped money in everyone’s hand, whispering, ”Murunga for life, he’s first on the ballot,” as Sabuni’s agents helplessly watched. He had hoped people will believe his empty words. However, being the incumbent, Murunga had manpower and resources.

Voting started at noon. By then, everyone was tired and most people had left to drink immediately they received Murunga’s money. Others had lost interest in the entire thing. One man, standing next to the entrance just left the queue, saying he hadn’t wronged anyone to suffer like that.

”May the best candidate win. I can’t die of thirst and hunger just because of Murunga or Sabuni,” he said as he staggered away. There was no doubt he had irrigated his throat the whole night. He was joined by his friends.

”Hey Jembe, has it ended?” my father asked as I entered the house.

He was seated with six other men under a tree, drinking. Brewers make a kill during the campaign periods. Politicians know well that for their supporters to scream and hawk their slogans afar, their throats need to be thoroughly irrigated.

”There’s still time. They close at 5pm,” I said without looking at him.

”We just know Murunga will win without our votes. He has really poured money…”

Murunga was announced the winner the following day. Everyone went to congratulate him in his home. But he could not be seen, it was said he was resting. He flew to Los Angeles a week later to extend his rest. We have never seen him again, except on local dailies and television.

Wafula p’Khisa is a poet, writer and teacher from Kenya. His work has been published in The Legendary, Aubade Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Journal,, Best New African Poets 2015 and is forthcoming in the Best New African Poets 2016.


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