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

By Evelyne Musambi
BBC News, Nairobi

  • Published
Nairobi gubernatorial candidate Polycarp Igathe cleaning public toiletsImage source, POLYCARP IGATHE

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.

Image source, JOHNSON SAKAJA

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.

Image source, DIDMUS BARASA

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.

Image source, DIDMUS BARASA

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

Former senator Boni Khalwale who is 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.

Image source, BONI KHALWALE

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".

Image source, GEORGE THEURI

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.

Image source, ISAAC MWAURA

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.

Who is in the race to run Kenya?

Learn more about Kenya’s presidential candidates

Choose a candidate to view their bio

Raila Amollo Odinga

Azimio la Umoja Coalition

  • Age: 77
  • Nicknamed “Baba”
  • Son of former vice-president
  • Trained as an engineer in what was then East Germany
  • Prime minister from 2008 to 2013 in the unity government created after post-election violence
  • Formed alliance with ex-political enemy President Uhuru Kenyatta
  • Four-time unsuccessful presidential candidate
  • Championed multiparty democracy in the one-party era.
  • Detained twice (1982-88 and 1989-91) as a political prisoner.
  • Seen as a formidable campaigner able to draw large crowds.
  • Achieve double-digit economic growth through investment in small business and manufacturing sector.
  • Provide affordable quality healthcare for all.
  • Disburse $50 (£42) a month to two million needy households.

William Samoei Ruto

Kenya Kwanza Alliance

  • Age: 55
  • Worked as a street trader as a teenager.
  • Has a PhD in plant ecology from the University of Nairobi.
  • Served as deputy president since 2013 but fell out with boss President Uhuru Kenyatta.
  • One of Kenya’s biggest maize farmers.
  • Charged by the International Criminal Court over post-election violence – charges later dropped.
  • Portrays himself as champion of the downtrodden.
  • Coined phrase “hustler nation”
  • Owns huge parcels of land but the source of his wealth is a subject of speculation.
  • Praised as an effective agriculture minister from 2008-2010.
  • Seen as a powerful orator and robust media interviewee
  • Give all Kenyans subsidised health insurance cover and a fee waiver for poor households.
  • Allocate $420m annually to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Appoint a gender-balanced cabinet.

George Wajackoyah

Roots Party

  • Age: 63
  • Holds a masters in international development law from the UK’s University of Warwick.
  • Says he has 17 university degrees
  • Worked in police intelligence before he fled the country in 1990 to escape from torture
  • Gained notoriety with eye-catching policies
  • Lived on the streets of the capital as a child and was rescued by Hare Krishna worshippers
  • Partner in a law firm he established in 2018
  • Campaigns wearing a tracksuit, T-shirt and headscarf rather than a smart suit
  • Legalise the farming and production of marijuana for industrial and medical use
  • Switch to a four-day working week from Monday to Thursday
  • Invest in snake farming to extract the venom which can be exported

David Mwaure Waihiga

Agano Party

  • Age: 65
  • Practised law for more than three decades
  • Also an ordained reverend
  • Previously ran for MP, senator and county governor – losing each time
  • Founded Agano Party in 2006
  • Says he brings a “breath of fresh air” to the top of politics
  • First expressed an interest in running for president in 2013
  • Set up an asset recovery agency under the presidency to recover stolen funds
  • Slash income tax by half and get rid of it altogether for medics and police
  • Give incentives to manufacturers and entrepreneurs to create jobs

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