Escape From Kenya, And Why With Election Jitters, It’s The Right Time To Buy A House

Post-election violence in Kenya in 2008: Are fears that it will happen again next week justified?

Post-election violence in Kenya in 2008: Are fears that it will happen again next week justified?

Yesterday I tried to buy an Economy class seat for a quick dash to Uganda, and return on Sunday to catch the Election Day action on Monday March 4.

There were no seats on any of the flights. Well, I am still waiting for something to open up. Oh, I was told there were two Business Class seats, but then I would have to fork out an additional $550 for an upgrade and taxes – for a 5o minute flight. As Wahome Mutahi (RIP) would have said, I am neither too clever nor too foolish, so I figured there were better ways to spend my money.

The non-availability of seats is unusual. For as long as I can remember, it has always been possible to fly between Nairobi and Entebbe at a few hours notice.

I dug a little bit, and found out – not surprisingly – that it has to do with the Monday election. Many people are afraid that there will be a repeat of the 2008 post-election violence and are high-tailing it.

I know of two big international organisations that stopped their staff from travelling to Nairobi three weeks ago. Another just closed its offices in Nairobi and gave its people several weeks off. Some multinationals have taken most of their non-Kenyan staff “out of possible harm’s way”.

Glittering Nairobi: But for some of its residents, it loses the shine during elections.

Glittering Nairobi: But for some of its residents, it loses the shine during elections.

No, they are not all going to wait the election out in Uganda. Thing is that seats to flights to Europe from Nairobi sold out days ago. The next city in the region with the most flights out to Europe is Entebbe, so a large chunk of the traffic to Uganda is actually in transit to get flights to Europe.

Most Kenyans and “budget expatriates” who are taking sanctuary in Uganda have been driving across the border over the last 10 days. Ugandan roads and towns, I am told, are teeming with Kenyan registered cars.

Hotels in cities with cleaner air and more affordable rates like Jinja on the River Nile, are doing a roaring business. Joachim Buwembo, columnist for The East African, has called the many people who  are flooding Uganda in fear of election violence in Kenya “election tourists”.

I do perfectly understand, and even laud a man or woman who would flee a country because they fear for theirs and their families safety.

However, I do take a slightly different view. Living in your own, and other people’s countries, is like a marriage. You cannot be in it only if it is good. You also have some responsibility to hang in when it is bad. You cannot

The serenity of River Nile in Jinja, Uganda: Home to a large number of 'election tourists' from Kenya.

The serenity of River Nile in Jinja, Uganda: Home to a large number of ‘election tourists’ from Kenya.

think a country is worthy enough for you to work in, make a livelihood there, be sustained by its hospitality, but not have the courage to stand with it in times of trial.

In the end, of course, most of us do run for cover or our lives. The point then is whether Kenya is at a point where one needs to do that run.

Some weeks ago I was talking to a good Kenyan friend, a very pragmatic chap with a sharp nose for business and an equal sense of humour. I had mentioned to him sometime back that I was looking to buy a house in a nice leafy suburb. He told me if I had the money, it was now time to buy.

Some people, he said, were nervous and selling their houses rather cheaply and getting out of Nairobi. I wasn’t ready. If the Monday election ends in a deadlock where no one gets the 50% plus 1 needed to win, we shall go into a run-off that will take place between April 4 and 11th.

There will be more jitters, I suspect. And maybe there will be a few more panic house sellers. If my limbs are not broken, this time I will be ready. For the right price, this time I hope I can buy a house.



6 comments on “Escape From Kenya, And Why With Election Jitters, It’s The Right Time To Buy A House

  1. Daniel
    February 27, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    If you think Uganda is having the biggest influx of “election tourists”, think again! Being a paltry 271km from Nairobi, many Kenyans opt for a quick trip to their southerly neighbors to await the election outcome.

    Our tiny city now has to contend with traffic congestion for the next week or so and we the locals are now stocking up on food items and other household essentials as unlike much of Tanzania, Arusha gets most of its goods from Kenya.

    May sanity and calm prevail this time round!

  2. Geo Nalugala
    February 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Beautiful. We must be in this, for good. As Samuel Kivuitu (recently deceased) said in the heat of Elections 2007, if Kenya burns, I will burn with it. But I am very certain there will be no blip, come March 5th. Kenya will be alright this term.

  3. mwirigi
    February 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Baron Rothschild, an 18th-century British nobleman and member of the Rothschild banking family, is credited with saying that “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”

    Many people don’t know that that is just a part of the quote, the full quote is “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own”

    I see nothing wrong with Kenyans making money from elections, everyone from the DVD sellers minting cash from people who foresee a prolonged stay at home next week to people like your friend seeking property in areas with “cleaner air”

    After all, we know something they don’t, there won’t be sustained widespread post-election violence this time

  4. TheOd
    February 27, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    I think the only reason why people are being nervous is because they are CHOOSING to be. This can be contagious.

    Please tell me about these people who are quickly selling their houses so that I can also buy one. Am serious btw! :)

  5. Agaba Rugaba
    March 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Charles, your backyard here in Nyakasura is the ultimate definition of beauty and paradise. I guess the best place to own a home/house is Kabarole, not with the thousands of crater lakes. Did you ever swim in the Kigera Kyanyinamwiru lake?

  6. myredpens
    March 11, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Wonderful article Sir. I was at a shopping mall last weekend near my home in a wannabe leafy surburb and was amazed at the volumes of goods people were carting away into their cars. Chit-chatting the security guards, one mentioned that people were stocking up in fear of violence that might emerge after the elections. I let out a chuckle, followed by a head shake punctuated with another chuckle.

    These are the same well-to-do Kenyans flooding Twitter with their peace messages and sending out patriotic emails and tweets about how we learnt from ’07, how we aren’t gonna let that happen again, how Kenya is bigger than any individual and how we should,at 1pm of the last Friday preceding the elections, sing the National Anthem (in English I presume; none of these patriots know the Swahili version). I wondered what they’d do with all that milk in the frige when, a week after elections, everything goes back to normal.

    Its not just an expat thing. Many Kenyans are willing to trade this country for another should things go wrong, as they are wont when trying to create a democracy. We need more faith in us; more patriotism lessons. Like in the Moi days, we need a day in the week when we pledge alleigance to the country and to it’s values, if any.

    Meanwhile, you can come live in Kajiado County where I live. Peaceful, calm, leafy (at least the area I live) and you can easily get that healthy goat for you to roast in your garden as you laugh at Kenyans paying 100,000 shilling rents for cramped up apartment in Kilimani, just so they can be close to The Junction. And Yaya.

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