YALI Network member and Regional Leadership Center alum Lone Felix has been interested in politics since his days as a law student at Kenyatta University. Having successfully campaigned for and been elected Student Council president, representing all of the university’s campuses across Kenya, he knows the responsibility that comes with being a voice for others.
Now Lone is running to represent Busia County in the western part of Kenya in the national legislature. At 26, he is the youngest person on the ballot.
According to Lone, running for office in Kenya is expensive. Voters expect to be given money when candidates show up at rallies or campaign events. But Lone doesn’t have the money to give them, and he says he wouldn’t do it anyway. Lone says he struggles to explain to voters why paying and receiving money for votes is a slippery slope ethically.
“Some people want what they can get now, before the election, because after the vote they believe you’ll disappear,” he says. “The typical Kenyan politician’s approach is they have bought your vote. That means that you can’t hold politicians accountable. Politicians look at it like being in office is recouping an investment.”
Lone is determined to play it clean. He expects that money will be used to buy votes, but he says that “if you want to force an extreme, go the other way — approach people on a personal level. I expect to be drowned in cash and noise. But I want to be held accountable to deliver on promises. I want them to know I will work on their behalf.”
Lone says that corruption is very expensive, and that situation makes it very expensive to change the country.
“Institutions and processes are used to hide corruption,” he says. “If institutions are led by corrupt people, they will be corrupt. Leadership requires a good person with good intentions, working for the benefit of the people. Politics is the most influential institution in human interaction.”
So far, he says, people have been receptive to his message.
“I want to be a person who thinks about the impact of decisions on people. That’s what we need.”