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Kenyan activist stands for parliament on anti-corruption programme

Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi (C) talks to a street hawker in Nairobi during his campaign ahead of the August election
Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi (C) talks to a street hawker in Nairobi during his campaign ahead of the August election Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

A Kenyan social and political activist is standing for parliament on a hard-line, anti-corruption platform. But can Kenyans, accustomed to election bribery and voting on ethnic lines, get on-board with his platform?


Boniface Mwangi, who is standing in Nairobi’s Starehe constituency, is an activist-turned-candidate, notorious for leading years of attention-grabbing demonstrations against corrupt Kenyan politicians.

Now he says he wants to take his activism to parliament, so he can change it from the inside.

“We are one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” Mwangi told RFI while campaiging at Nyayo Market outside Nairobi in July. “I'm going to parliament to speak for the people who suffer because of the corruption, I'm going to parliament to pass laws that will be friendly to the people who are no friend to the corruption.”

Independent, crowd-funded campaign

But getting to parliament could prove difficult for Mwangi’s independent, crowd-funded campaign.

Campaign season in Kenya is synonymous with buying votes, an illegal practice, which Mwangi says his campaign does not engage in.

His campaign also refuses to hold lavish political rallies and he does not travel in luxury vehicles or hire security, as many other candidates do.

To read What you need to know about Kenya's election click here

Mwangi, who is also an award-winning photo journalist, says it’s because he’s just like anyone else.

“I'm not going into politics to make money. I don't want to become rich,” he said.

If elected, Mwangi has promised to take a 50-percent pay cut, refuse a personal security guard, use public hospitals and turn down a car purchase allowance of 42,000 euros.

Mixed reaction from voters

Mwangi chooses to meets constituents individually, instead of speaking to them in large public meetings.

Many voters say they appreciate the personal attention and have faith in his mission. Still, many harboured concerns that he would be unable to stand up to corruption without the support of a major political party.

“Together with other like-minded leaders, it can happen. On his own, it might be very hard,” said Beatrice Obwocha, a shop-owner at Nyayo Market.

She said she would support Mwangi in the 8 August election.

“We need some people like him to help him fight the fight so that we can get somewhere and at least eradicate or minimise this corruption and intimidation,” she added.

Against the odds

Many political commentators say that the odds are against Mwangi in his fight for a seat sought by three other candidates.

His opponents have the support of established political parties with ethnic and tribal support.

Mwangi’s confidence remains high.

“I've raised about 60,000 dollars [50,000 euros] from the Kenyan people to fund my campaign,” he said. “If they funded me, they’ll vote for me.”

Kenyans will go to the polls on 8 August to elect candidates to national and local seats.

Mwangi has declined to endorse a candidate for the highly anticipated presidential race.

To read RFI's reports of Kenya's 2017 election click here

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