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Toughness conquers varsity hooliganism in UoN students elections

The election of Ms Anne Mvurya as the first female president of the University of Nairobi Students Association last week may have come as a surprise to many.

But to the third-year law student, the victory was the climax of a bruising six-month battle that was fought online and offline, and which saw her traverse the university’s 12 campuses in just three weeks.

Ms Mvurya garnered 24 votes out of a possible 36, with Mr Samuel Ayoma, her closest rival, getting a paltry eight.

On the surface, the 20-year-old conveys softness and cheer while her talk is punctuated with playful laughter. But beneath this gentle nature is a fearless political firebrand who does not shy away from confronting her competitors.

‘GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGNS’

“I was the last person to declare my candidacy for the position. My team and I conducted grassroots campaigns, talking to students and establishing what their main concerns were,” Ms Mvurya told the Nation.

“I hardly slept for six months. We moved from Nairobi to Kisumu, Mombasa and several other towns across the country. It was very tough.”

Ms Mvurya rode on the promise to amend the students association’s constitution to bolster representation.

“My team had all groups of students represented, including women and the disabled, an element that was lacking in our opponents’ camps,” she said.

Announcing her candidature late was a good strategy as she was able to study her rivals properly. Besides these, she employed a powerful online branding strategy that was proved easy to sell.

According to her brand manager, Private Socrates, the fact that Ms Mvurya would become the first female president in the history of the students’ union was her biggest selling point.

“It was easy to sell her to voters for she is not controversial. We used social media and her website to drive the numbers up,” Mr Socrates told the Nation.

ISSUE-BASED DEBATES

With hooliganism being edged out of student politics, it was easy to engage learners on issue-based debates, Mr Socrates added.

Ms Mvurya has been on the political scene for two years, having served as the head of secretariat for the University of Nairobi Students Association.

“Voting for student leaders through delegates has helped to curb hooliganism. Monitoring of voting now easy. The process is fairer than it had been,” she said.

Her main challenges, she added, was financing her campaign and convincing students that she would keep her promises. Her team used more than Sh2 million in the campaign.

“For the entire duration of the campaigns, I catered for transport, meals, accommodation and other bills. I was in charge of the welfare of the team,” she said.

Unlike before when every candidate would run an individual campaign, the new system requires one to have a team of seven.

Ms Mvurya denies reports that she was sponsored by people outside the university.

“I am a self-made politician,” she told the Nation.

She added that among her first tasks upon assuming office, would be to initiate talks to amend the student union’s constitution and help improve security at the university.

SMEAR CAMPAIGN

Her win elicited mixed reactions, with some students engaging in an online smear campaign and discrediting her ability to lead.

“Losers are bound to engage in propaganda. I expected such reactions,” she said.

Her brand of politics? The abrasive type with a light touch, she said.

“University politics has been dominated by hooliganism for years. To overcome this, you must be tough. But you also must listen to students,” she said.

On whether she is related to Kwale governor, the student simply said she hails from Nakuru. “My father has been my mentor in all aspects of my life,” she said, adding without giving details that she would be on the ballot come 2022.

For the entire duration of the campaigns, I cartered for transport, meals, accommodation and other bills. I was in charge of welfare for the team”