Election time. It is here. You can tell because of the crazy amounts of huge picture posters there are covering every surface; walls, gates, dukas, trees, even cars! Because of the loud rallies in the streets, hushed conversations about politics, and trucks packed with people sporting their party's colors hollering as they pass you. I went running this weekend, threw on a sweat-wiking shirt, pants, and covered my legs with a kanga and headed out. It only took about 5 minutes until I realized (by way of numerous people calling out to me) that I was wearing one of the colors of a political party. Not the brightest idea. I then had to spend the next hour of my run answering EVERYONE that asked "not my politics, just my shirt." Stupid Mzungu :)
While our stateside family and friends celebrate Halloween this Sunday the people of our island will be voting. Past elections have been mired in violence and chaos and we are praying for a peaceful and uneventful change in leadership this time around. It seems the most critical day might be November 2nd, when presidential results are expected to be announced. Like politics everywhere you get different answers depending on who you ask but many of our friends are convinced the election is rigged. I cannot say I blame for thinking this way as there seems to be much evidence that sways me too (although I must confess I have always loved good conspiracy theories:). It is also a reflection of the fact that many people operate under the theory that; in general, the mainlanders are evil people that want to take over everything here. The people on these islands are for the most part fiercely independent, or at least they want to be. They want to be protect their culture and their rights.
This year we have hope for little or no violence and most locals feel that things will be more peaceful as well. The major difference is that the government has come up with a power sharing deal, as opposed to the "winner take all" elections of the past. Some Wazungu have decided to leave the island based on the past but we and our team are staying put. Our neighbors have offered lots of advice and most people say they will not go out a lot in the days following the election just in case of any "fujo" (nonsense). We are going to take that advice, stock up on food, and hang out here. We are very hopeful that things will remain peaceful and calm. Should violence break out and we are threatened or in danger, we have an emergency evacuation plan in place. We pray it will not need to be utilized! So far, things have been rowdy but peaceful and people are very optimistic about the election. Us too! Please join us in praying that everything is peaceful for the people here.
And I learned my lesson: no more green shirts for me.