One of my first memories in Kenya was during the election season in 1992. I was five years old and was playing on our family farm. Our farm was located in a low-lying area prone to ethnic clashes that typically happened almost every election season. As I was playing, I saw fire coming down the hill as house after house was razed to the ground. I didn’t know what was going on, but my older siblings were in sheer panic as my father wasn’t home, and he had left with the car. Suddenly, my father drove into our farm at high-speed reverse and yelled, “Get in!” and we drove off. After this incident, I noticed a pattern. When it was election season, my parents would tell us we weren’t spending Christmas on the family farm. Instead, we would travel to our remote ancestral village in Kenya to ensure our safety.
It is public knowledge that ethnic tension in Kenya is fueled by politicians who want to sway an election outcome. People almost always vote according to tribe. Even if a candidate appears very good, one would be inclined to vote for the corrupt one with lesser qualifications. Politicians create sham manifestos to get into power then rubbish the same manifestos as they adopt selfish alternatives.
It’s no surprise that along the way, I found myself resenting voting. Why wouldn’t I? In my eyes, a vote was a source of bloodshed, corruption, heartache, loss, and empty promises. When I left my country of birth in 2007 via the Green Card Lottery, I still maintained the same sentiment. However, after a few short years, I quickly changed my views when I saw that voting makes a difference in America! It’s mind-boggling to think that my vote actually counts! So, in 2012 when I became a naturalized citizen, I quickly registered to vote! I couldn’t wait to get that sticker that said I VOTED!
So I am here, not to tell you how or whom to vote for. I am telling you why I vote. I am voting because my vote counts. I am voting because my voice can change the outcome of an election. I am voting because I have the freedom to do so; I don’t need to hide in a remote village for my safety. I am voting for my values. I am voting for my children’s future.
God Bless America.