What you need to know:
- Anita Soina, 22, braved the country’s harsh political climate and declared her interest in the Kajiado North parliamentary seat.
- The graduate of Multimedia University, has risen against the odds to face a crowded field of 16 aspirants in next Tuesday’s election.
Little-known Anita Soina, 22, braved the country’s harsh political climate and declared her interest in the Kajiado North parliamentary seat. This is a position that was once held, for more than two decades, by former vice president George Saitoti from 1988 to 2012 when he died in a plane crash.
Despite her tender age, Ms Soina, a graduate of Multimedia University, has risen against the odds to face a crowded field of 16 aspirants in next Tuesday’s election.
In an interview with Nation.Africa, Ms Soina, vying on the Green Thinking Action Party (GTAP) led by renowned environmentalist Dr Isaac Kalua, reveals why she thinks she has what it takes to become the constituency’s leader.
Q. Who is Anita Soina?
A. I am a positive social change catalyst and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocate with a strong inclination towards environmental conservation. I identify as ‘The Green MP’. I am a climate justice advocate, environmental warrior and a sustainability digital influencer. I am running for Kajiado North MP with an aim of taking the green and climate agenda to the corridors of power. I am a graduate of the Multimedia University of Kenya where I pursued a Bachelor of Public Relations and Corporate Communication.
I gave a Ted talk on TedX platform on “The Green War”, which is also the title of my debut book, which I launched ahead of my 21st birthday. I have attended some of the high-level events such as COP 26, UNEA 5, UNEP @ 50, Sustainable Energy for All Forum Kigali and Stockholm plus 50 in Sweden, among others. I founded SpiceWarriors, an organisation aimed at creating awareness of the roles of every individual in contributing to a healthy and safer planet.
Q. What inspired you to run for a parliamentary seat?
A. The knowledge, the passion to serve, and the understanding of the problems did. I realised that we are not short of manifestos and solutions but are short of leaders with goodwill. As a constituency, we are where other constituencies were years back, meaning something was not done right in our case. A parliamentary seat is also not limited to a constituency but serves the entire country. I would love to use the space and voice to push for bills that will help the people, and the most pressing one being environment and climate change-related ones.
Q. What informed your choice of party—GTAP?
A. GTAP is the party that gave opportunities to special groups, that is women, youths and persons living with disability (PWDs). I am one of those who believe that we want opportunities and not sympathy. Big parties have lost so many good leaders through negotiated democracy and youths, women and PWDs are usually the victims. I also believe the environment is at the centre of economic and social growth.
Q. The seat you are aspiring for was held by long-serving vice president, the late Prof George Saitoti; can you fill his shoes?
A. Not only filling his shoes but also going beyond. My main aim is to make sure we catch up with constituencies that are ahead in so many aspects. With our advantage of the necessary networks we have created over the years, we expect to invite supporters from all over to go beyond the mandate of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) because I am a leader without borders.
Q. What drives you?
A. Borrowing from the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You are the change you want to see in the world.” With my passion for leadership, I continue to push. In the field of politics, I get all the reasons to let politics go, but it is an avenue for leadership, a place where we can change lives, and that wakes me up every day.
Q. What, in your view, is the youth space in Kenya's politics?
A. There has been some improvement over the past years when it comes to youthful aspirants. While I appreciate that, I also think the youth get blocked from the space by some leaders. Youths are known for nomination spaces when we can be given the chance at the ballot. I envision a country where youths and women get elected equally as our older leaders and the same groups get nominated as there will be no minorities in the elective seats. We will achieve this if we give equal opportunities at the ballot.
Q. Do you think the youth have made an effort to ascend to the country's leadership?
A. Yes, looking at the number of youthful candidates, I can for sure say we have presented ourselves despite the challenges
Q. Why do you think you are the best bet for this MP seat?
A. I am in the race with different candidates who have had opportunities to serve before but didn’t serve the people as expected; that alone is enough to say they will not serve us if elected. Other aspirants in the space are retired government workers and are in it as a retirement plan. I believe we need leaders to work, not to holiday.
Q. What are you considering to win this seat?
A. Kajiado East MP Peris Tobiko, who is my great friend and role model, set the pace for female leadership by being the best-performing MP among the five MPs in Kajiado County. We are also conducting our campaigns by visiting businesses and homes, among other places, to understand the challenges—an important step to solving them.
Q. What are some of the challenges you are facing in your quest to become MP?
A. So many. Campaigns are expensive and that has been my main challenge. Compared to my opponents who receive financial support from fellow elders, among other sources, what I receive is “you are still young, step down for our candidate so that next time you can try.” Another challenge is intimidation in some areas from our opponents’ supporters, who threaten our security.
Q. Are they solvable?
A. The problem of intimidation is solvable because we stand strong and keep our eyes on the ball. The issue of resources and financial muscles one needs to campaign can be solved by many stakeholders, citizens included. I personally spend the little I have on advertisement and logistics, but more money that people spend is for people who come to listen to you, which is insane. Elsewhere in the UK, a friend of mine vying for councillor once told me that in their country you get disqualified if you are caught giving out money during campaigns and election period. The major solution to this also lies on the leaders. Let them work hard to make people’s lives and that way, people will not sell their power of voting for Sh100.
Q. Which institutions do you think are better placed to take a key role in addressing them and are they doing anything to solve them?
A. The three houses should consider passing a serious bill on voter bribery, and the existing ones should be seriously monitored. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, government and other non-governmental organisations should also conduct voter education even five years before the election, to make citizens vote for individuals with the greatest ideas, not for the highest bidders.
Q. Kajiado North MP race is a crowded field of 16 candidates, why do you think you are the best bet?
A. Elections and campaigns are not friendly to the youth. In the NGO sector where I worked before elections, you get paid and it does not come with pressure and questions after five years, and for that reason, this is a sacrifice I have made to contribute to positive change. Looking at the top five performing MPs, most of them are young. In this career, I’d love to be promoted to serve more than a constituency and it’s only possible if I perform as expected and elected more than once to represent Kajiado North.
Q. Do you think it's time for the old guard to give youth their space in politics?
A. Yes, we have seen ideas, innovations and leadership of the youth even in offices. However, I say this with so much respect for the old guards who since time immemorial, came up with leadership structures and participated in leadership. So, we need a balanced leadership table.
Q. Majority of the youth wait for nomination slots instead of gunning for the seats in a competitive process; what's your advice to them?
A. Let us go for the elective seats, we have the energy, the power and abilities to get elected.
Q. How are you financing your campaigns?
A. I am doing what I can, when I can. I appreciate friends and strangers who have come through in kind and with all my savings exhausted in this space. I am not regretting as it is a choice and sacrifice I made. It gets tough every day, but I only do what I can.
Q. How does your manifesto look like?
A. My manifesto addresses the gap and challenges that have had us lagging behind. I believe we are not short of manifestos as a country, we are not short of solutions; we are short of good leadership. I want to bring power back to the citizens because I believe we, as citizens, have the answers to the problems and the leaders come in with power and resources to make things work.
Q. Do you have a preferred presidential candidate?
A. Yes, I do. Just like every voter, I am also looking for a leader who can fit in that position. I have made my decision on the same and in case he changes ways and manifestos, I will still make a decision based on who’s a better leader.
Q. How do you juggle your campaigns without giving your supporters direction on the top seat?
A. I let them know that I have one vote and all that they should do is listen to the candidates and make a good decision.
Q. What's your parting shot?
A. Your vote is your power and you get a chance once in five years to use it. George Jean Nathan once said, “Bad leaders are voted in by good citizens who don’t vote” and if you don’t vote while you are eligible to, you don’t have to complain about anything because you chose to contribute to bad leadership.