Sunday, May 23, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

May 19, 2010

Two weeks ago church leaders and politicians opposing Kenya’s new constitution launched their campaign at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. At that event they unleashed soma balloons and unveiled their colour symbol that they said they would use throughout the campaign to defeat the draft constitution.

Coincidentally when the Interim Independent Electoral Commission unveiled colour symbols for the Yes and No sides, the No team got their hearts desires. It was the red card they said they would give the Yes team in order to send them off the political pitch.

Now that the Yes team has the green colour while the No team has its favorite red colour, how will both sides exploit the virtues and vices of these colours to lure the electorate to their sides when Kenyans go to the polls on August 4, 2010?

For starters, the colour red is very popular among a younger generation of Kenyans especially the football fans if they support Manchester United of England. To the Manu supporters, the red devils’ colour is the colour they are ready to don any day of the week especially during those seasons when the red devils are on a winning spree.

The other age group that may receive the colour red positively are the young and the young at heart Kenyans that religiously observe Valentine’s Day year in year out. On that day, cities like Nairobi are adorned with red roses, red dresses and even red umbrellas all over. In a way the colour red has come to symbolize a lovers’ day in our calendar; a day when everyone looks forward to some form of love or the other from whatever quarter including secret lovers.

However, for the Yes team, they may see the colour red in totally different light. They may capitalize on the fact that red is the colour of blood and that whenever there is a murder, an accident or an ghastly incident occurs, a trail of blood reminds us that blood, red blood has flowed. They may equally be quick to remind us that whenever we want to beat our enemies to pulp, we are always quick to say that blood may be spilt if the enemy is not careful. In many cases, seeing red means seeing danger or being extremely threatened to the extent of being afraid.

When we talk of the colour red, our memory goes back to our childhood days when we used to watch blood sucker movies of Caligula or Vampire. These creatures had insatiable thirst for human blood that they sucked with abundant pleasure leaving victims bone dry.

Closer home, a red card in a football pitch has been associated with indiscipline for the recipient that ends up being thrown out of the pitch before the game ends.

In most circumstances, such recipients are forced to miss at least three crucial matches as punishment for their bad manners or inability to play according to the rules of the game.

For those of us who live in the cities worldwide, a red traffic light can only spell danger. If a motorist jumps the red light, chances are that the driver is an accident in motion. Jumping the red light is a sign of recklessness, indiscipline and a danger to other road users including pedestrians. In a nutshell, the colour red symbolizes danger and death in more ways than one.

Green on the other hand does not enjoy so many negative connotations that one can think of. Right from the traffic light the green sign is an express permission to pass as there is no danger lurking at the corners of the streets. In many occasions people use the expression “green light” to mean permission to proceed with what one wants to do.

In a wider sense green has come to symbolize the virtues of the environment or earth friendly efforts. We plant green grass, trees and other plants in our homes and gardens to give us that sense of serenity and togetherness with nature. When rains come, our fields turn green with plenty of crops and grass to feed us and our animals, whereas in dry season, we suffer the scourge of the red hot sun.

Internationally, the American Green Card has symbolized abundant opportunities for many people in the Third World eager to get into the United States, the land of many opportunities and possibilities. To get the American Green Card has come to mean lifetime achievement for many people around the world. It is a license to live and work in America and enjoy all the benefits an American citizen enjoys. In a nutshell the American Green Card simply means access.

As a young university student in my days, our university card was also called the Green Card. Indeed just as the American Green Card, it gave us access to night clubs, cinema halls and all manner of entertainment centers at almost nothing. Establishments around Nairobi recognized and honored our “Green Card”. It opened many doors to us as young academics.

It will therefore be interesting to see how the Reds will manufacture negative connotations for the green colour when in fact as of now there are very few bad things anybody can say about it.

If I were in the Red camp, I would Google up Chris De Burgh’s song and listen to that classic movie soundtrack of the 1970s “The Lady in Red” and make that my campaign theme song. That song has the potential to make the hardest red colour critique give it a second look if not a second chance.

It will therefore be interesting to see how both camps will exploits these colors to their advantage when the campaign proper starts on July 13, 2010 for the referendum votes on August 4, 2010

However, as things stand now, the die is cast. The Reds have already been given the red card while the Greens have been given permission to proceed unless something drastic happens in either of the camps.