Kenya’s general election – as any past elections it has held – has gained considerable coverage locally and across the globe. None of the candidate who sought to be voted in any of the numerous posts garnered intense and significant political appeal than the Starehe Constituency’s Member of Parliament (MP) candidate, Boniface Mwangi.
Of the seventeen constituencies in Nairobi County, Starehe’s interests are tremendous. It includes the Central Business District (CBD), Ngara, Mathare, Kariokor and Huruma. Hence, the stakes were high.
Boniface Mwangi, running under his newly created Ukweli Party (which means truthful), initially had a daunting task to make strides in a constituency that heaves under the yoke of political mischief and blind loyalty. For the last two decades, Starehe has hosted Maina Kamanda (of the ruling elite) and Margaret Wanjiru, (a bishop-cum-politician under the ODM banner, then) as its Members of Parliament (MP)
This election proved to be a very Kenyan story; a drama festival with obvious characters sprinkled with few fresh faces, the kind that keeps electorates on their toes and political pundits displaying their wild cards. Boniface Mwangi was an enigma.
He was competing against known names that included Jubilee Party’s Charles Njau (also known as Jaguar) and an equally youthful Steve Mbogo of the Orange Democratic Party.
The Starehe Constituency was indeed a highly intense play that drew a myriad of excitement. And Mr Mwangi, a known human rights activist, came in to disrupt a play often acceptable in the large Kenyan elections – that of tribalism, party loyalty, bouts of mud slinging and tokenism.
After throwing his hat in the ring, he approached the deeply indifferent political stage with grace, youthfulness and eagerness befitting a matador. He ran a clear, clean and coherent political campaign as he sought a chance to represent Starehe in the parliament.
He did not win. He lost a distant 3rd to Charles Kanyi of Jubilee Party of Kenya, who was followed closely by Steve Mbogo.
He was the first politician in Kenya to concede defeat. Gracefully.
To all Kenyans who voted for me, thank you for believing in me and demonstrating your hope for building a better Kenya. We ran an honest, innovative and revolutionary campaign; we did our best. I am humbled by the love and support I got from all of you.
He may have lost the election, but something UNIQUE did happen. LESSONS were learnt.
What happened in Starehe — and this should be replicated in future elections across Kenya— was a disruption, such as what we have witnessed in business circles such as Uber, or better yet M-Pesa. What Boniface has done will impact how elections takes place in years to come.
We can compare Ukweli Party to a local start-up, say GrassRoots Bima, an insurtech that offers insurance products over a mobile app or USSD. Ukweli Party was created hardly 3 years old by a lean, efficient team that largely makes use of technology – such as digital media and online marketing – to engage its growing numbers of followers with similar views. And they are plenty.
Boniface Mwangi is a scalable brand, an impressive 700K Twitter following and 260K+ Likes and followings on Facebook. With a personalised touch, Mr Mwangi was able to reach many a Kenyans with his clear manifesto and strategies on how he would represent the constituents, if they were to elect him.
The #TeamBoniface was able to make use of new media, mainstream media and creative work to crowdsource funds, mobilise voters and source for volunteers. Any person who got in contact with the team felt a sense of participation, a sense of ownership in Bonnie’s campaign.
Second, Boniface distanced himself from the drowsy headache of drumming support to a presidential candidate, in order to gain political mileage. He kept himself clean, without a blemish. He did not want to contaminate himself with the existing demons in Kenya’s political landscape.
In short, like any disruptor, he sought to start a new movement, a new outfit that would upset the existing political establishments that have monopolised the Kenyan space with age-long (and myopic) ideologies that have been tested against the current times, and found wanting. MPesa, through innovation, shattered the chains of paper-and-queue banking system that had condemned majority of Kenyans from financial inclusion.
Lastly Boniface Mwangi carried a VERY clean campaign. NO bad words. NO mud slinging. It was just a simple, coherent campaign, based on values, and integrity. It was an issue-based political campaign. He met various stakeholders on the ground; including businessmen, Jua Kali artisans, residents and visitors. He sought clarifications and gave reasonable pledges.
Our campaign proved that our country is yearning for change and our people are ready for a different kind of politics. Our campaign has shown that you can run a campaign based on issues and not tribe and that you can gain traction from this.
And like any techpreneur out there, Mr Mwangi’s yearns an ambition to change Starehe Constituency. He has set the trend. I am sure by the year 2022, there will be other Mwangis seeking elective posts, and that Kenyans will be ready to accommodate them.
It gives me hope that in 2022, matters of tribe and political party allegiance will no longer be a big deal, as long as you run on issues.
Because, like any other part of the world, innovation and technology has taken over the way we do things.
Source: John-Robinson Njiru