- January 21, 2022
‘Softie’ features Boniface Mwangi, an activist advocating for change in Kenya. As a photojournalist working for Standard Media, he covers the 2007 post-election violence. Boniface transitions to an activist when he couldn’t stand the bloody and damaging elections.
Shift in priorities
Usually, one would prioritize their family. However, Boniface chooses Kenya over his family, a decision that makes his wife, Njeri, uncomfortable. The family fears for the life of Boniface. Their lives are endangered too. I could see worry written all over their faces whenever Boniface left the house. The thought of whether he’d come back or die in the cruel streets of Nairobi was inevitable.
Tension in the family heightens when Boniface vies for the Starehe Member of Parliament (MP) seat in 2017. However, there’s a major hiccup that threatens to jeopardize his success. Unlike his wealthy opponents, Boniface lacks money—a hook for most Kenyan voters. As the political storm thickens, Boniface Mwangi gets death threats. His wife flees for safety with their children. Many voters frown over Boniface’s penniless state, but he clings to his vision. He interacts and bonds with the people he hopes to serve and emphasizes the need for change in Kenya. He literally walks from person to person selling his agenda. On the flip side, his opponent addresses the people from the sunroof of a high-end car and when the said voters try to hang on it to cheer him, he tells them, “Get off! You’ll scuff the car!”
What needs to change
The ugly political state of this nation is a cancerous root that runs deep. For change to take place, there are a few aspects that we need to reconsider.
Tribalism is sadly the tune most Kenyans dance to when casting their votes. It is as if our identity is incomplete if we do not mention our tribe. Boniface Mwangi is asked on one of his campaign trails, “Are you a Kikuyu?” Another one asks, “Who are you supporting for president?” Boniface responds, “I just care about the MP seat…I respect everyone.” Eventually, they dismiss him. We find satisfaction in having our tribe occupying parliamentary seats instead of gaining interest in what ‘they bring to the table.’ We need to understand that we’re a Kenyan people and cut the ethnic ties that divide us.
The handout mindset
‘Money is the root of all evil,’ so they say. I’d like to differ with that and say the owners of this money choose to do evil. For some voters, an election period is a season to reap from politicians. “Give me some money,” a lady tells Boniface Mwangi. When Boniface says, “I don’t have anything to give,” she calls him a WEAK CANDIDATE. In another instance, he’s called a BROKE IDIOT. On the other hand, his opponent is viewed as a strong candidate because of his wealth.
The cash handouts during elections blind us from the ills of corruption and violence. The saddest thing is that these monies don’t last. The fact that voters look forward to handouts during elections is evidence that Kenyans are desperate. We must find sustainable solutions— one of them is by voting in changemakers. Politicians should cease to use this vulnerability to manipulate people.
Intentions vs wealth
This point ties in closely with the handout mindset. Wealth is the scoreboard against which most Kenyan voters seem to decide the right candidate. This aspect has made it harder for people to listen to potential candidates who’ve got no money to give. We become deaf to their intentions. When Boniface asks Starehe people to listen to his ‘platform and policies’ they find it surreal because they cannot get past the money issue.
The wealthy candidates are impeccable. They live large while we languish in penury. They spend hours of their political rallies insulting their opponents as we applaud them. Not at one point do we stop and ask, “What are your intentions for Kenyans?” Every election year, we must evaluate the state of the nation against the current leaders and vote for change. As Boniface Mwangi puts it, “We as Kenyans must rise, and use common sense.”
In conclusion, ‘Softie’ is a timely documentary and a must-watch for every Kenyan. We need to break the ethnic grounds from which we make leadership decisions. We need to think sustainably and soberly scrutinize the intentions of every candidate.
You might also love: Lessons I Took Home From Boniface Mwangi’s Documentary “Softie”
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