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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

LCA participants in Nakuru during group discussions

LCA participants in Nakuru engaging in group discussions.

Kenya is preparing for its first general elections since 2007, when 1,500 people died and 600,000 more were displaced in post-election violence.  Following passage of a new constitution in 2010, many new elected offices were created, so March 4 polls will include many candidates who have never campaigned or held office before. A large number are not schooled in the skills that lead to successful campaigns or in the responsibilities of candidates and elected leaders.

One such candidate is Jane Wangui Murigi, who decided to seek a seat in the Municipal Council of Eldoret in the Rift Valley.  Women have traditionally had fewer opportunities in Kenyan politics, and she faced such challenges as stereotypical thinking that women don’t belong in politics, lack of educational and leadership training to prepare for a political career, and little chance for media exposure.

To help her overcome these hurdles, Murigi enrolled in March 2012 in NDI’s Leadership and Campaign Academy (LCA) in Eldoret as she prepared for a by-election to be held in September.  Created in 2011, the academy works to equip potential candidates with the knowledge and skills to run successful campaigns and become strong leaders once elected. With support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and the U.S. Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Rights and Labor (DRL), NDI has trained 1,688 potential candidates, including more than 700 women. A manual accompanying the training has reached thousands more. 

The LCA focuses on topics such as leadership, ethics and integrity in elective office; a new law governing elections and political parties; pre-campaign and campaign techniques; campaign financing and budgeting; communications and handling the media; and post-election conduct. To encourage more participation by traditionally underrepresented groups, NDI has held sessions focused specifically on helping women, youth and persons with disabilities.

After participating in the LCA, Murigi began her campaign for the municipal council using the skills she learned about leadership, communication and management.

“I am now able to offer quality leadership to the voters,” Murigi said. “Running a sustainable and effective campaign is vital, and with good leadership qualities, this can be achieved easily... It is essential to build a campaign team and structures by defining the roles and responsibilities of the team members involved.”

On Sept. 17, 2012, Murigi won election to the municipal council. She said the LCA training helped her understand her new leadership role, campaign management, communication strategies, legal issues on campaigns and the role of media. She highlighted efficiency, discipline and good leadership as key factors for running a successful campaign. She is confident that she can mobilize like-minded people. Murigi noted the importance of learning more about the opinions and needs of her constituents, and she built her campaign around issues that are important to them, such as unemployment and politically-motivated violence.  

Other LCA participants also are using their new skills on campaigns. Following a session in Narok, Onesmus Ngogoyo used his training to support a successful parliamentary campaign during the Kajiado North by-election, and he is now launching his own run for office. Last month he secured a nomination to represent the Olkeri ward in the Kajiado North constituency for the upcoming March elections.  

Update: Fifty of the LCA graduates were elected on March 4. NDI will continue to work with the 50 elected LCA graduates to support them during the post-election period.

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Published Feb. 8, 2013, updated April 10, 2013.