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Kenya election 2022: Cleaning toilets and chopping veg to impress voters

By Evelyne Musambi

Some Kenyan politicians have abandoned their luxurious lifestyles while on the campaign trail, turning to cleaning toilets, chopping vegetables and making tea in a bid to woo voters in the build-up to the 9 August general election.

One of the politicians who has entertained Kenyans the most is Polycarp Igathe, who donned a brand new overall, boots and gloves, before grabbing a mop and washing bucket to clean public toilets in the capital, Nairobi.

He spent less than 20 seconds mopping a toilet, while cleaners looked on in amusement.

“For a long time it has been considered dirty work but this is responsible work,” the bespectacled Mr Igathe said.

Toilet cleaners in the city often use old mops and buckets to clean facilities that are often stinking.

Mr Igathe – who is running for the prestigious post of governor of Nairobi – has also been pictured washing cars, DJing and serving alcohol in night clubs.

His antics had some people joking that he should come and baby-sit and do domestic chores for them.

Mr Igathe was the county’s deputy governor under Mike Sonko, but resigned less than a year after taking office saying he had failed to earn the governor’s trust to administrate.

Political analysts say these public relations stunts are well known to the electorate and are unlikely to influence voters.

Mr Igathe’s main challenger is Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja. He too has not been shy of gimmicks, sharing photos of himself buying fish from roadside vendors, and tomatoes and onions from the market rather than supermarket.

Nairobi gubernatorial candidate Johnson Sakaja buys onions from a vendor

Mr Sakaja has been the senator for Nairobi since 2017 and this is his first attempt at running for governor.

Nairobi resident Anne Wambui quipped that politicians do not know where the markets are located until campaigns begin.

“We are struggling to survive in this city yet someone who shops in expensive places comes to pretend to understand us when they want our vote,” she told the BBC.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa has been trying to woo voters by riding on motorbike taxis, abandoning his luxury vehicle.

He also climbed into a wheelbarrow that was placed on top of his vehicle. The wheelbarrow is his party symbol and has been used to appeal to young enterprising Kenyans.

MP Didmus Barasa in a wheelbarrow

Mr Barasa has also been pictured taking tea with locals in a mud-walled hotel.

Other photos show him using a three-stone traditional fire place to make tea for a 67-year-old widow albeit still wearing his fancy leather shoes.

MP Didmus Barasa makes tea at a fireplace

He did not win over everyone with these scenes of domesticity, garnering some rude comments on social media.

Former senator Boni Khalwale who is again running again in Kakamega, western Kenya, wanted to prove his street credentials by opting for a roadside polish of his shoes.

He sat eating roasted maize while waiting for them to be cleaned.

Kakamega senatorial aspirant Boni Khalwale (in yellow) eating roasted maize

He captioned the photo “Kazi ni Kazi”, a Swahili phrase meaning “Every hustle matters”.

Mr Khalwale’s stunt also outraged some people on social media, once again proving such antics do not always work.

Embakasi West MP George Theuri posted photos of himself walking barefoot on the streets captioning them: “Loving every moment in my neighbourhood”.

MP George Theuri walking barefoot

Mr Theuri also wore shorts in the photos prompting one of his followers to comment, “It takes an advanced sort of idiocy to believe such politicians.”

Five months ago senator Isaac Mwaura went to great length’s to get his party’s ticket to run as an MP in Nairobi by helping vendors chop vegetables.

Senator Isaac Mwaura (in yellow) chopping vegetables

Mr Mwaura said he was trying to understand the struggles of small businesses in his Ruiru constituency in the capital.

“Sadly… you didn’t know mama and baba mboga [vegetable vendors] existed until now. It took the dawning of an election year to be awakened to this reality,” one person posted on social media.

Ultimately it did not help the politician as he failed to be nominated and will not be on the ballot come Tuesday.

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