07 August 2017

Day 30 – A celebration of democracy or a well-known ending – elections are coming

On the 8th of August – tomorrow - there will be elections in Kenya. And unfortunately, many people are expecting riots on the 9th, there is hope mingled with fear, ethnic violence and also people saying that it has been blown out of proportion and everything will be well. So, we shall wait and see what wedensday will bring.
So, the story goes like this: The incumbent is Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta – son of the First president of Kenya. He is of Kikuyu ethnicity and his party is Jubilee. If he wins this will be his second and last term. (only two terms in Kenya). His rival is Raila Amolo Odinga, he is of Luo origin coming from Bondo, where I am residing right now, in the university named after his late father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga university for science and technology. His father was first vice president. He is of the ODM party that is part of the NASA coalition. There are 6 more rivals, but they are not expected to be relevant. 
There are many rumors on both candidates and how they “squander” the public funds. won't go into that it is tiering. 
Many people have high hopes for these elections and many also say they are rigged in advance and there is no way that the incumbent will lose because he won’t let it happen. It does not help the general atmosphere, when Chis Msando the ICT manager of the independent Electoral and boundaries commission was brutally murdered last week, and who in the past said that he has put in all the safeguards for a non-penetrable system. It is even more annoying that there are rumors now that the cause of murder is an illicit affair, which seems a strange coincidence to me.
The area in which I am is Luo territory so almost everyone is in favor of Odinga. They say, not only because he is a Luo, but because they believe that he will make a difference and move away from corruption so some people I talked to really believe that he will win and have high hopes. Having said that the polls disagree.
The elections have turned into an ethnic rivalry unfortunately, the case scenarios are like this, if Kenyatta wins and Odinga Losses there will most likely be rioting in this area and Kisumu county. If Kenyatta losses the rioting will most likely be in Nairobi. Other issues people fear, is that if you work in this area for example, but come from another county with another ethnicity, and if your group voted for Kenyatta you might face violence in Siaya county. That is the fear that I hear from some people and they have even made arrangements for sanctuary in the university if things turn bad. 

In any case it was stronly suggested to me not to leave the university premises from today until next Monday. So, I stocked on food. The U was kind enough to give me the key to a refrigerator and utensils for cooking. So, I will be cooking myself for the next 2 weeks, whilst under “curfew”. I actually don’t mind the curfew, since I have so much work to do, summarizing all my interviews and findings, which I have not even shared with you yet. You might think, I am just touring here, but that is not the case.

But whichever way it goes everyone I am talking to the optimist and the pessimist pray for a peaceful election and believe that the nation will get over this rivalry very soon.

05 August 2017

Day 25 – The Craziness of Transportation

        Kenya is very diverse with 46 M people (last census in 2009). So, as far as transportation goes there is everything here: bicycles, motorcycles and tuk-tuks, very old cars, but also new and luxury cars, I had been told that more cars are sold in Kenya per year, than in the whole of Europe???? There are buses and mini buses and everything in between. But most of all you see people walking very long distances, on rural roads but also on highways and inner-city roads. There are several reasons for the long-distance walking with the first being lack of means and cost saving but also, tradition, lack of transportation or just ease of movement. In Nairobi for example we preferred to walk to the university from the bus station, because if we took any mode of transportation it would take at least an hour because of traffic and by walking it only took us only half an hour. Since weather is quite mild it was actually nice. In the rural areas, people walk everywhere, to the water source for example, from 10 minutes to one hour. In my visits to people’s homes, I walk with them to their nearest water point and believe me 10 minutes back and forth, in the scorching sun, with a 20-liter load of water is not an easy task. Since I have arrived to Kenya, walking has become a significant part of my day, my Samsung step counter is very pleased.
 the ten min wakk to the open stream, and the stream below, this is cleaner water than usuall.

       Having said this, to really get by, I had to rent a car, Siaya is quite big and to get from one place to the other I need a car. A friend of Jackson allowed us to rent his car, for 30$ a day plus another 15-20$ for gas, which I am grateful for, since the renting prices at formal car rentals are between 60-100$ per day. Now you might ask why so expensive? Probably because the roads are really bad and every ride might result in some kind of breakage. And as sophisticated or as poor as your mode of transportation is, in the end everybody uses the same infrastructure and roads. The main roads are quite Ok, but most roads are under construction and this means that once started it can take several years to finish. And even if a road is paved it is seldom tarmacked, and even if it is tarmacked, within a short period, due to weather conditions and lack of maintenance, gigantic pot holes appear. This is really hazardous to any car. The places I visit can be accessed by dirt roads. These are bumpy, full of potholes, and eroded by rains, feeling like an amusement park ride. I am always surprised to cut into such a road and to see, village after village, market centers, schools and such all accessed by that kind of road.

       Since I am spending so much on inner transportation I decided to save the 72$ per way plane trip to Nairobi which takes 45 mins and take the bus, which takes 9 hours (hmmmmm). there are many different options in buses and almost anyone can get by, but on the other hand, some of the cheaper options (the ones in which you are cramped like sardines in a box) are not for me. Then there are the high-end buses such as the Easy Coach which are considered very safe and cost around $14. Not so expensive for us, but apparently quite expensive for most locals. The ride was not too bad, three stopes and nice scenery until we reached Nairobi and then it took 1 ½ hour to get across town. The way back was with the night bus, hoping to save time, but lost sleep, so was not so much fun.
In Nairobi, I slept in the suburbs at my hosts home Dr. David Ndegwah, we decided not to take his car into the city for obvious reasons, and that meant we had to drive in a Matatu. Before I explain that, just that you know, to enter Nairobi in the morning is an ordeal, so to surpass it, we woke up at 4, left the house at 5 and reached Nairobi at around 6:30 after the different stops. If we would have left at 6 or later, it would take us up to three hours. The Matatu – small shuttle buses (Mat means 3), the name is based on the fact that their ancestors originally carried 3 persons. This costs ~ 100 KES around $1. They are the main means of long-distance transportation in the inner cities, they are cramped, usually overloaded with people and cargo, stop anywhere and have a real bad reputation on the roads.
I will send a pictuer of a matatu later

        For the short-distances you take the Boda Boda, they got their name from being the ones to take people across the border, these are motorcycles, ride costs between 30 to 100 KES, depending the distance. I have taken one already, quite a freighting experience, they rarely use a helmet, and they are very fast. Known for their notorious riding and cutting, it was quite a freighting experience, not to mention the bumpers, which are situated around every 100 meters in urban areas, which are very important of course but are quite a challenge for any vehicle. They are also the main means of water transportation, they will bring 20L jerrycans of water to people. The jerrycan with water will usually cost 5KES, but the ride an extra 15KES, making the cost of water 4 times higher than it should be. 
or donkey
tommorow I will tell you all about the comming elections and my seige in the universty