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Bribery and Ballots: The Battle for Integrity in Kongoni Ward

By Seliphar Machoni

The recent community youth engagement event in Likuyani Sub-County’s Kongoni Ward was a mixture of frustration and hope. Young men and women gathered to discuss governance and leadership and share their concerns and aspirations. However, the main topic that dominated the conversation was bribery during elections.

Wycliffe, a first-time voter from Kongoni, shared her experience from the last election. “I was excited to cast my vote for the first time, but on the day, a politician tempted me with money. It felt wrong, but many of us needed the cash.”

This story was echoed by many others at the event, painting a troubling picture of corruption contaminating the democratic process.

The Youth and Bribe

Like many areas in Kakamega County, Kongoni Ward has a vibrant youth population eager to shape their future. Unfortunately, politicians often exploit this enthusiasm by using bribes to sway young voters.

During a session conducted by Siasa Place, nearly 60% of the youth admitted to accepting bribes during the last election.

“Most politicians in this region resorted to bribing voters, especially the youth. I remember they would give us amounts ranging from Ksh 200 to Ksh 1,000,” shared Wamalwa, a student at Kongoni Polytechnic.

Wamalwa further explained the dilemma faced by many youths. “Jobs are scarce, and we are struggling. When someone offers you money, it’s difficult to say no. However, I now realize we are sacrificing our future for a temporary fix.”

The Impact on Democracy

The consequences of this practice reach beyond individual elections. Bribery undermines the integrity of the democratic process, resulting in the election of leaders who may not prioritize the community’s best interests.

“When leaders buy their way into office, they answer only to themselves. This leads to poor governance, corruption, and a lack of development,” explained Mr. Adika, a youth leader from Kongoni.

Youth disenfranchisement is another significant consequence. When young people view elections as mere transactions instead of a civic duty, their engagement in the political process diminishes. This creates a vicious cycle where poor leadership perpetuates poverty and unemployment, leaving the youth even more vulnerable to bribery in future elections.

Voices from the Event

The youth engagement event served as a platform for open dialogue and reflection. Several participants shared their thoughts on breaking the cycle of bribery and promoting more ethical voting practices.

“As a youth, you should refrain from accepting bribes from politicians. Doing so undermines your potential to vote for good leaders who can bring about the changes you want as a young person,” said Tele, the Program Officer at Siasa Place.

Others called for stricter enforcement of laws against electoral bribery. “Politicians who engage in bribery should be held accountable. We need transparency in the election process and severe penalties for those who corrupt it.”

Path to Solutions

Education emerged as a vital solution. Many advocated for civic education for all voters, especially the youth, so they could make informed decisions when voting for political leaders.

Community engagement is equally important, and an event like the one held at Kongoni Ward should be organized to encourage ongoing conversations and foster a culture of integrity and accountability. Local leaders and civil society organizations can play a significant role in these initiatives.

Legal reforms are also crucial. Strengthening laws to combat electoral bribery and ensuring rigorous enforcement can deter corrupt practices. This requires a combined effort from all stakeholders, including the government, judiciary, and civil society.

Conclusion

As the event in Kongoni Ward ended, there was a sense of renewed determination among the youth. They left with a deeper understanding of the importance of their vote and a commitment to rejecting bribes in future elections.

The path to a democratic process in Likuyani Sub-County has challenges, but with continued education, engagement, and enforcement, the youth can lead the charge towards a more transparent and accountable political system.

Reflecting on her experience, one of the youths said: “We are the future, and it’s time we took our responsibilities seriously. Our vote is our voice, and we must use it wisely.”

The battle for integrity in elections has just begun, but the youth are ready to fight for a better tomorrow in Kongoni Ward.

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