Flo Carson

Flo Carson - Social Anthropologist, studying International Development at Sciences Po, Paris. I am slightly obsessed by gender, politics, media, human rights and global health. I've worked in Asia, Africa and Europe and keen to explore more of the world we live in. Take a look at my Twitter & Tumblr for my most recent posts. tly

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Kenya's Passion for the Political

When I first arrived in Kenya, I knew I was going to be staying in a bubble. Anna's family apartment is beautiful and just a stone's throw from an upmarket mall. Getting to know her parents, and watching the news gave me enormous insight into the ongoing and eternal political dramas of the country; the issue of President Uhuru facing the ICC, increased media censorship, and strict regulation and moderation over the work of NGOs were just some of the headlines that I was growing wise to. However, in the first week or so, I believed that I gained this awareness simply because of the company I keep, well educated, well off and able to access the latest news at the touch of a touch screen.

But I was proved wrong. Kenya, as a whole, is a country obsessed by politics.

Here politicians embody the celebrity culture we are so familiar with in the West. They can be seen, necks laden with bling, riding around in black tinted window cars and evading as many rules as they can. Indeed, these very MPs are often referred to as MPigs.  In every Matatu I get into, there is at least one face embedded fully into one of the daily newspapers and I can always hear ongoing radio discussions about political issues.

One of the most notable things I found about Kenya's love of politics was when I was driving through central Nairobi in the early hours. On street corners, under some trees in the park, were different groups of men crowded and huddled together like penguins on ice. I assumed these guys were snuggling together to warm up before the sun's heat reached their skin, but when I enquired as to what was actually going on I was fascinated. Every day, groups of men come together to listen to the news; for each group, one man will have purchased a paper or acquired the latest current affairs on his radio and takes it upon himself to distribute this to his peers who circle him desperate to hear his version of the story. I found this concept charming (despite the lack of women in sight) since it evoked old stories of coffee shops in the UK, where historically men would distribute important news and discuss current issues.

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