A helicopter prepares to leave, blades spinning. A man emerges from the crowd and at the exact moment of takeoff, jumps onto the landing skis and dangles precariously under the chopper’s belly as it ascends. The crowd below goes wild.
But this isn’t a movie. This is a political rally in Kenya.
Two parties may be leading the polls in the lead-up to Kenya’s August 8 election, but it’s the helicopters carrying them around that have stolen the show.
In what has been branded by some as “the chopper election,” helicopters adorned with the faces and logos of candidates have criss-crossed the country, helping make this year’s race one of the most competitive and expensive elections in Kenya’s history.
More are flying in Kenyan skies than ever before. A record 86 choppers have been registered during this campaign season — more than double the number registered last time round.
It may appear frivolous to outsiders but helicopters offer an efficient opportunity for those chasing votes. There’s the added showmanship and flair that comes with descending from the clouds to roaring supporters below but they also helps candidates cover vast distances quickly and dodge Kenya’s poor roads.
But this flair doesn’t come cheap. Each helicopter costs around $3,000 an hour to rent. In comparison, the average income in Kenya is $1,380 a year, according to the World Bank.
In the rural town of Suswa, in Kenya’s Masai country, several hundred people cast their eyes to the sky as helicopters circle above, kicking up dust on the crowd.
Five helicopters gently drop to the…
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