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Laughter, the best medicine in the tough theatre of politics

By Mohamed Guleid | Published Thu, September 14th 2017 at 00:00, Updated September 13th 2017 at 22:04 GMT +3


As you hold your breath, imagining every horror and worst-case scenario in next month’s repeat presidential election, I am praying that you don’t miss the lighter side of things. For many of us, seeing politicians slagging each other daily is a huge turn-off. It also makes people uneasy to see middle-aged men constantly hurling epithets at each other. However, the political theatre also provides us with a rich genre of humour.

It also makes the often cold, calculating and conniving politicians sound human. By introducing humour, we cut the ice and help to soften the hard issues. Otherwise this life would be boring. Even then, the humour doesn’t take away the seriousness that is politics.

Many feel aggrieved when their favourite candidate loses. There are even cases of people committing suicide. Joseph Mugambi Mathenge from Nyandarau County allegedly committed suicide after his preferred candidate lost in the parliamentary elections.

There are people who have made it their business to turn the otherwise depressing aspect of elections into something to laugh about.

Remember the famous gaffe by Machakos governor candidate Wavinya Ndeti: "Yaliyo ndwele sipite"? I am sure she probably didn’t expect it would take social media by storm. Obviously, a mistake on her side using a Kiswahili saying wrongly turned humorous. The actual saying ought to be “Yaliyipita si ndwele tugange yajayo”. Let bygones be bygones.

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Linguistic gaffe

Ms Ndeti's 'Yalio ndwele sipite' was turned into a subject of satire. Someone even came up with a song to make a killing out of her linguistic gaffe. Within days, he had produced a video famously known as Wavinya Challenge.

The young man was suddenly propelled to fame. And now, a new video is in circulation about 'vifaranga vya komputa' (computer chicks), a term used by National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga while rejecting the presidential election outcome. He termed Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy computer-generated leaders.

Cartoonists and satirists also treated those of us who lost in the elections to a dose of humour. At least it made the pain of loss a little bearable. My party leader, Isaac Ruto, was a subject of hard tackles from the humourists.

One funny statement said, in reference to Canaan, the Opposition's promised land: “Mimi sikusema nitaenda Canaan, nilikua nasema nitaenda kaa nani, mimi bado ni wenu.” meaning, "I did not say I was going to Canaan, I said, I should go (to Canaan) as who?..."

The role of satire in diffusing tension cannot be gainsaid, especially for those who attach too much to politics. Even those targeted by the humour laugh at those hard jokes.

A few months ago, The Star depicted a satirical cartoon of yours truly bearing a giant-size head and riding a motorbike. I laughed it off. Did anyone hear the one about the NASA tallying centre in the clouds? That it couldn’t be traced because the clouds had moved?

Comedy troupe

In the 1990s, when the comedy troupe Redykyulass started making satirical comedy about former President Daniel Moi, many Kenyans were amused and enjoyed it. It was rumoured that even Moi himself would laugh and enjoyed episodes of Redykyulass.

This was therapeutic because it endeared the otherwise feared President to Kenyans. There are suggestions that Redykyulass might have played an important role in what is now termed as Kenya’s second liberation and the march to pluralism and the introduction of multi-party politics. So humour not only entertains but can also be an agent of change.

In the Somali language, there is a saying that if one cannot present a sensitive issue openly, he can use jokes as a means to avoid giving offence.

The Standard’s Gado is probably Kenya’s best cartoonists of all times. I can only imagine what goes on in his head as he satirises our politicians and our society; from the search for a NASA presidential candidate, where Raila was the only one holding the flag while the other contenders hung on to it, to the one about 'Arap Singh.' Have a laugh. It is the best medicine.

 Mr Guleid is the former Isiolo deputy governor

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