Amidst the pomp and color in the Culture Week event, USIU students were deciding on their next student leaders for the year 2017/18. There is no doubt that these two events remain the most anticipated in the Spring Semester. The Culture Week event is a unique celebration of culture at USIU. As an international university, the event epitomizes USIU spirit of intercultural and multicultural interaction. I remember during my time as an undergraduate, the Tanzanian community at USIU always won the best dance and we were the loudest in terms of expressing our unique cultures. I passed by the Tanzania tent and the students have kept the Tanzanian spirit of love and fan alive. I watched from a distance as they danced “+255 niite Mbwana Samatta – Weka Muziki” a popular song by Darassa  featuring Ben Pol that has is loved here in Kenya. They served Tanzanian cuisine including “ndizi, pilau, biriani, mchemsho” and they donned Tanzanian national colors – green, yellow, blue and black. I also marveled at the other USIU communities as they showcased their cultures. The Somalis girls dressed in their traditional dresses – they looked very beautiful. The Ethiopians too were looking very smart and elegant in their national colors. The Burundi and Rwanda community were immaculate. They beat their drums so hard as they synchronized their traditional dance. Simply spectacular. I even saw the Chinese showcasing their culture. The India community too was vibrant. This is a proud achievement of USIU – bringing together different people to celebrate together their cultures.

TEamBlast2

Team Blast

As this was happening, just outside the school cafeteria, contestants for the Student Affairs Council (SAC) were urging students to go upstairs to vote. The voting station at USIU is on the second floor of the cafeteria. The contestants had put a spirited campaign. The campaigns were unique and just like the Kenyan election experience, the contestants formed alliances. I was particularly impressed by the ingenuity of one alliance calling itself #TeamNdaniNdani which they borrowed from KANU’s Secretary General Nick Salat’s expression “KANU iko ndani ndani ndani ya NASA” as they toyed with the idea of joining the National Super Alliance (NASA). This #TeamNdaniNdani was unique in its campaigns where they donned red t-shirts and campaigned aggressively even hiring a pick-up which they used to go around the school. The other interesting team was #TeamMoha, led by one very jovial and amiable Somali young man. Moha, stood outside the school cafeteria urging students to vote for him. For the two voting days, Moha and his team camped outside the cafeteria, as they sold their “manifesto” to the students. Moha even has a wordpress blog for his campaign. Quite impressive. There was also an independent candidate – a young lady who seeking to be SAC Chair. They all embodied the spirit of competition.

TeamMoha

Team Moha

As a PhD student, I played a peripheral role choosing to watch from a far. I voted on the second day of voting (15 March, 2017). Before voting, I had lunch at the cafeteria with a colleague. I pointed to an observation that I had made. I told him that the Somali community in Kenya is really making strides in all sectors of Kenya. I pointed the example of two cabinet secretaries Amb. Amina Mohammed and Aden Mohammed. He further retorted saying that Amb.Amina and Aden not only held cabinet positions but also two important cabinet positions – Foreign and Industrialization dockets respectively. He was also quick to point to me that the Leader of the Majority in parliament Aden Duale is also a Somali. As we spoke, he cited further examples of how Somalis were an emerging business people in Kenya and the fact that they are now educating their children in good schools. That was just a by-the way as we enjoyed our rice and beans meal. There was buzz in the cafeteria as the sound of music from the ongoing Culture Weeks event continued just outside.

A Tech Election

After my lunch, I picked myself up and went upstairs to vote. I was impressed by the level of organization. The points were marked vey well indicating the direction and the instructions. I went to the Graduate Students desk and showed them my ID. The school ID was used for identification before one can be allowed to vote. I was directed to sit on the chairs that were arranged for the voters. As I sat and waited to be called, I pulled out my phone to check out a few things. The security guard stationed there quickly advised against using my phone as it was against the electoral guidelines. I obeyed and sat as I waited to be called. After a few minutes, the clerks called me and confirmed my school ID and gave me a piece of paper which showed my Private Code which I would use to do the electronic voting. It was computer generated and showed that I was vote #1470 – a low number considering the official 6,999 students figure as indicated in the VC’s Report to the University Council. I was only the second PhD student to vote! Maybe it is something the winners should address! Or maybe the school should as well think of how to involve the graduate student! I went on to log in to one of several computers and duly voted for my best candidates. What was amazing is the embrace of technology in the voting process. After doing the voting, the system asked for my phone number, which they use to relay the results. The results were also been relayed live on campybizz.com. The system also asked for feedback with regard to the voting process. I will also receive the results in my school email. As I stepped outside the cafeteria, Moha was there and again jovially asked if I voted #TeamMoha. I smiled as I walked to the library to continue with my reading and possibly watch President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State of the Nation Address.

Nico Minde

Nairobi

15 March 2017