Change amongst the hills
I have a knack for arriving in places as key events are going on. The day after I touched down in Nairobi, Kenyans were voting in a referendum to change their constitution; it has not really changed since the one agreed in 1963, following their independence from British colonial rule.
I had come straight to the Rift Valley, which turned out to be the prime ground for the “no” vote to change. It’s not that they opposed changing the constitution, but felt that the proposed one did not go far enough to address issues. Al Jazeera reported that several hundred people fled their homes prior to the vote, fearing violence. The Rift Valley saw some of the worst of the post-election violence in the 2007 elections.
But speaking to people here, they were excited about the opportunity for change. One guy in a Nyama Choma joint (a typical Kenyan “roasted meat” eatery)—who had celebrated with several pints of Tusker—spoke of how this would “change his life”. There would be no more fear of the police, random stops and arrests without charge. No more bribes to pay. Corruption is a big problem, and a big deal in Kenya. The Guardian reported it with a line:
“It will end corruption for ever” … At one stroke tribalism will end, and brotherliness will reign.
— Wanjiku is ready for a new political dawn, the Guardian
People of all age, and all backgrounds were discussing it. And the television screens that night broadcast ever-changing pie-charts and updates to the tallies. Rift Valley would be the only province to vote against this constitution change, two-to-one against, but throughout the rest of the country, it was supported. Sixty seven percent of Kenyans voted “yes”. And so history was made in this East African nation.