Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Postering the town red (and blue, and green, and…..)

With just 3 weeks to go to the Presidential elections here in Kenya, it would be hard for anyone to miss the fact that there’s major campaigning going on. This evening, the first Presidential debate took place at one of the private schools, just outside the city. This was no doubt followed by many on television and radio, and for those who weren’t yet home, the effects were felt with traffic gridlock across the city.
However, what has impacted me has been the visual effect of the campaign, namely the plastering on pretty much every and any surface, of a plethora of posters. (A friend remarked yesterday, ‘Stand still for long enough, and you’ll get a poster on you’!) I first noticed these about 4 weeks ago, in the run up to the preliminaries, on my walk to the office. A nearby wall was festooned with multiple posters, all for the same individual. Particularly noticeable were all the backings to these posters which were strewn on the ground. Not exactly a good advertisement for this particular individual (or perhaps more precisely, for the political machinery behind him).
It has struck me that campaigning here would seem to be more about how many posters can be put up than anything else. Trees, walls, road signs, bridges, even drains – they’re all plastered with various individuals’ faces. And most of the time, it’s not sufficient to put up just one poster. Maximum coverage evidently applies here as well as to the media! Why just limit yourself to one poster on a wall for your candidate, when you could put up thirty?! It would appear that opposition tactics are sometimes to tear down the opponents’ posters, the life or durability of some seeming to be rather short….
Big billboards on the roads broadcast the major contenders with promises of jobs, more sports stadia, and a transformed country, amongst other things.
Yesterday, I was slightly delayed in my journey home by a campaign lorry in an outlying town. Music blared out, people on the lorry jigged around, and a crowd was gathered. Something evidently happened within the crowd that caused the lorry to suddenly move on, and then got into a fix as it attempted to turn around, backing into another road, consequently completely blocking the one that we were on. Cars, spray-painted with the name of this candidate, lined the route. It’s a while since I was in the UK during the run-up to a general election, but from what I remember, it seems to be rather a different ball game here.
Behind this family group is a flank of posters
A wall covered in posters (I counted 5 different ones)
Pillars supporting a bridge provide a useful surface
As does this tree and notice (I guess they won't be getting any phone calls at the moment!)
A new wall as part of the flyover being constructed on Langata Road - all of 2 different posters providing decoration here!
One of the main contending partnerships
A less messy way to advertise, and in Nairobi traffic, likely to catch the attention of plenty of people
Putting someone in the drain would have negative connotations elsewhere!
(Some of these photographs are courtesy of Jill Brace who was in the passenger seat, while I was driving.) 

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