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The final days

Edwin Macharia ’01 (“The Dirtiest Game,” Fall ’07) lost his race for a seat in the Kenyan Parliament, placing third in a field of 14 candidates. His update is below. —Editor

In the 10 days leading up to the election, we not only saw the strong following we had but also came face-to-face with the ugliness of our current politics. On Dec. 20, 2007, a van carrying campaign team members was hijacked. Eight armed young men forced everyone to the ground, beat them and then made away with their personal effects. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.

The next day, a gang of 30 rowdy youth spent the night going around my village, knocking on doors and demanding the two things one needs to vote: voter’s cards and national IDs. Individuals who were my strong supporters became disenfranchised, but again, no one was hurt.

On Dec. 24 we were not as lucky. In transit to a rally, one of our vehicles rolled, leading to the loss of one life and to four hospitalizations. Judging by the previous events and an overheard conversation, the possibility that we were being targeted is hard to ignore.

In spite of these and other challenges, we soldiered on. We saw heavy negative propaganda as well as significant sums of money being given to entice voters, but we refused to respond in kind, remembering that principles are only sentiments until they are applied in the face of pressure.

In the final tally, we came in third, behind the front-runner, who garnered a commanding lead, and behind incumbent Chris Murungaru, who managed only 2,000 votes more than we did.

While clearly disappointed not to win, we were very encouraged by our strong showing in a crowded field of 14 candidates, most of whom had run previously and many of whom had resources in the multiples of ours. Our message, “Leadership, not Politics,” resonated strongly. At the grassroots level, we inspired others into action, fundamentally changing lives. Nationally, our initiatives have gained traction.

This is a difficult period for Kenya. While many continue to agitate for peace, calm and level-headedness, blood continues to be shed. Angst continues to grow. Please keep Kenya in your prayers. Wherever you can, encourage peace and tolerance amongst all. We must rise above our narrow differences to find our common humanity. Individually, let us give our unique light to the world.

Edwin Macharia ’01
Kieni, Kenya

A new way to run

The latest Amherst magazine arrived in the mail the day after an interesting conversation I had with an acquaintance who loves Kenya deeply. So there was a certain positive predisposition and eagerness to learn more as I discovered and read the fine article about Edwin Macharia.

Last year, I volunteered for a third-party candidate seeking a high office in Florida. As I was learning something of how political campaigns work from behind the scenes, a thought occurred to me: what if politicians used campaign donations to actually start to solve some of the people’s problems? The campaign would become a charitable process in which people in great need would see some specific, direct benefit.

The money would not buy votes. Rather, the ideal would be to have office seekers demonstrate their leadership, compassion and managerial and organizational skills by using funds to initiate ways to solve problems. The media and the voters would follow the accomplishments, not the promises and ideas, of the candidates.

Edwin, by example, showed leadership, care and compassion in placing the needs of the people above his own during the campaign, using some of his limited resources to help them.

David Ring ’61
Dunedin, Fla.

Losing but winning

It is amazing that sometimes when we lose, we do indeed win. Edwin Macharia has made a difference in Kenya, and I am sure we will hear more from him in the years ahead.

The magazine article was wonderful.

Shirley Fleming-Oxtoby
Wixom, Mich.
The writer is the wife of Thomas Oxtoby ’71.