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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Will This Young Grassroots Campaigner Prove A Giant Killer?

Focus On Cherangany Constituency Parliamentary Seat 2007 General Elections

Interview with young aspirant Jesse Masai

In keeping with the vision and mission statement of the Kumekucha blogs, I continue to profile some of the younger aspirants in the forthcoming mother of all general elections in Kenya. If you're running and are interested in being featured please get in touch using the email address above. Be warned I'll have to check you out first.

Kumekucha: You are facing a political giant in Cherangany, what's your strategy?

Jesse Masai: My way has been to talk to the people on a one-on-one basis and through targeted communication with segmented focus groups. However, I'm yet to hold a single public rally, for tactical reasons. There's much else I'm doing in terms of approach to the campaigns, but obviously won't go into that here.

Kumekucha: Kenyan voters prefer to elect somebody with "a big car and big pot belly who dishes out cash and sugar" which disqualifies many younger candidates. Please comment.

Jesse Masai: Campaigns for this seat were devoid of money issues for well close to a year (I began working on it early last year). Towards the end of last year, however, some politicians in the area monetarized it. Where previously one would address audiences without them asking to be paid, grave issues were now overlooked and comparisons made over who had what. We had a sad situation developing in the process, where discussions on the issues that mattered were becoming rather muted. In the main, however, my campaign has been encouraged by the increasingly informed and decisive Cherangany voter who comes up to me to say kula ni kwa nani, lakini kura ni kwako. In a sense, therefore, we are glad others are burning their cash on our behalf - one of them is spending an estimated Kshs. 200,000 on hand-outs and fund-raisers on a rather regular basis. We want to hope the voters will have it in their heart to keep their heads at the end of the day.

Kumekucha: Is election violence an issue in your constituency and if so, how do you propose to deal with it?

Jesse Masai: There has been nothing serious thus far to write home about in that respect, though my sense of things is that some aspirants have that as a possible tool for political mobilization and demobilization. My approach has been to be mindful about my own security (a serious concern by the day), be informed on the security situation in the constituency and the country as well and preach peace in my public and private communications. I am a warrior for non-violence. I will not kill to ascend to power. And I will not kill to maintain power. Deep within me is the belief that we are all made in the image of God - the Imago Dei - and that nothing, not even politics, should motivate me to acquiesce to violence as a tool for political mobilization. If that happens, our road to Rwanda will be very short indeed. I have lived in several conflict areas in this nation to have had a very intimate knowledge of the ramifications of violence on a people. I won't allow it in Cherangany.

Kumekucha: Give us a brief summary of your background including professional qualifications.

Jesse Masai: I was born on February 27th, 1980 to a clergyman and a housewife. I attended Sinyereri Primary School, Cherangany High School, Messiah College (USA) and Daystar University (Kenya). My first degree had me studying public relations, media culture, print and electronic journalism. I'm currently pursuing an MA in Media and Development at Daystar University. I have had stints as a journalist in the mainstream media as well as in the NGO world. I have also, as a volunteer, taught languages, history and government in some parts of this country. I should also mention that my background is peasant and was rather difficult much of the time, - I have come this far purely by God's grace and mercies each bit of the way. I have God to thank for what I am today.

Kumekucha: Which presidential candidate do you support currently and why?

Ha! Ha! Ha! Why not wait for polling day?

What do you plan to do if you lose the elections?

I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. You can be sure, though, that I have some things in the oven.

What in your view is the single biggest problem facing your constituents?

It's tempting to list the usual suspects, but my sense of things - and indeed the inspiration for my candidacy - is that there exists a need for leadership on issues that matter in Cherangany. Leadership with a vision, a vision to lead people with passion, creativity and imagination.

How do you plan to deal with this problem?

I am seeking the people's mandate to serve them in the next life of our country's Parliament. I desire to exert a redeeming influence on people, ideas and structures in Cherangany and our country.

What are the land issues that have caused so many problems in the neighboring Mount Elgon area and who is funding the violence?

I suspect those who wield power, authority and influence in today's Kenya (both in government and the opposition) could give you a better answer to that.

What do you think of the possible candidature for the presidency of John Githongo, former ethics PS?


Any other comments.

I invite us all to take courage as a nation to make the necessary, right decisions come polling day. Our best days are ahead of us. I also invite us all to seek to make our lives a daily, responsible answer to the question of God's call on our lives in our generation. This will mean seeking God, finding of whom will be finding ourselves. Our souls will remain restless till we find our rest in Him. Finally, at a personal level, I covet your prayers and material support for the task I have applied myself to, - I still need cars and finances for that final push. If you are a voter in Cherangany, I need your vote, - as indeed those of your friends and relatives. More information about me and how you may be involved in the campaign can be found at my official campaign website.

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