Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: Open Letter to Middle Class - Patriotism Goes Beyond Social Media

opinion

Dear voters,

Do you know just how crucial your vote is to the future of this country? Why are some of you so indifferent to politics? Why is it that rather than get directly involved in politics you choose to take to social media to air your views?

Your apparent apathy to Kenya's politics worries me. While I do agree with you that a lack of true leaders amongst many of our politicians is the reason this country is not as economically developed or as ethnically tolerant as it should be, your lack of interest in politics is also partly to blame for this leadership void.

Taking to Twitter and Facebook to ridicule politicians and whine about the loss of the 'better candidate' in the recently held party primaries cannot be defined as active involvement in politics or the running of the country; going out to vote can. As much as discussing so-and-so who shouts the loudest in and outside Parliament but has little to show for bettering his/her constituents shows that you have an idea of what is going on in the political arena, statements such as 'I could not go out and vote because I didn't have time' show that you do not care for your country as much as you would like people to believe.

It is a shame that many in the middle class have taken a back seat when it comes to politics. You need to understand that your vote counts just as much as that of the politician and the low income earner, and that no election is too trivial for you. But you seem not to know this, which is why politicians always by-pass you in favour of the masses who are willing to cast their votes for those whose policies they know nothing about.

If you think I'm wrong, tell me: do politicians hold rallies in Kileleshwa or Karen? Why do they always retreat to the low income settlements if their inhabitants do not matter? They do this because they know you will not vote anyway!

A report released by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in January 2012 estimated the number of Kenya's middle class at 17 percent of the population. Although this means that the middle class is by far out-numbered by low income earners (the World Bank estimates that 44 to 46 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line), it also means that this class makes up a sizeable chunk of eligible voters.

The middle class can influence the direction this country takes just by being a little more interested in the political affairs of this country. It is not just about talking to your gated-community neighbours about how poorly run this country is; it is about positively influencing everybody you come into contact with, including the domestic workers and others you rely on to keep your home/office/business running.

Every day in our papers we read that Kenya's middle class is growing, backed by figures that show, for example, that the number of personal vehicles on our roads doubled between 2002 and 2007. If that is true, then the influence of the middle class should also be growing. If the middle class contributes so much to this economy, shouldn't this same class actively participate in the running of the same economy it helps fuel?

You cannot afford to scoff at the masses that attend mid-week rallies held by politicians, logging onto your social media profile to call these Kenyans 'idle' and point out that these Kenyans are there because they are jobless yet politicians do not care. Remember that these 'idle' Kenyans are the same ones incited to violence so they can earn a few shillings. Remember that these same Kenyans are willing to fight for what they believe in, be it right or wrong. Many of them are very smart young people who have not had any economic opportunity to partake in development.

Your indifference to politics is not a sign of your superiority over the 'easily misguided' masses. By hiding behind social media instead of queuing to vote, you are saying that you do not care about Kenya. By refusing to use your power to vote you are relinquishing any right to comment on the affairs of this country, be they social, economic or political.

As we head towards the March 4th 2013 general election you need to demonstrate that your patriotism is more than wearing a 'Proud to be Kenyan' T-shirt bought at your local mall. You need to show that you understand the Mkenya Daima campaign encouraging Kenyans to be 'wenye nchi' and not just 'wana nchi.'

You have shown that you can use social media to make a difference, as evidenced by Twitter campaigns such as #Kenyans4Kenya. It is now time to get off social media and take action: be one of the voters who will queue to vote on March 4th. It is time to take the future of this country into your hands, and not only on your keyboard.

Our country needs you. Vote for integrity and vote for the people who you think will bring the change and the future that you desire - but please DO GO OUT AND VOTE!

The writer is the vice chairman of KEPSA and chairman of the MKenya Daima steering committee. 

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