Siasa na Kusengenyana (aka When Kenyan politicians switch from English)


By Nanjala Nyabola—African Arguments—October 3, 2017—

Kenya’s political discourse takes place in two very different realms: one conducted in English, one not. 

The Supreme Court’s ruling on 1 September was one of the most startling in recent – perhaps world – history. In a 4-2 decision, the court held that Kenya’s 8 August election had not been conducted to the standard established in law and that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that oversees elections needs to conduct a fresh election.

Understandably, incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta, who had been declared the winner of the poll, was upset and felt that he had been robbed. In response, he gave two speeches.

For the first, delivered on the steps of State House, the president was in a suit and tie and he spoke, for the most part, in English. Although Kenyatta’s anger was evident in his pinched expression, the speech itself was relatively magnanimous. He promised to respect the decision of the court even if he did not personally agree with it.