President Kenyatta at a past rally and Raila addressing residents of Kajiado. Propaganda, witchcraft and politics blend very well. We get to hear all manner of morbid stories about the political class in this election season

There is a story of the ghastly antics of an elite politician from Western Kenya in every General Election season. As things enter the homestretch, our man knows that crowds of potential voters will throng his home.

They will ostensibly come to listen to his agenda for them. Yet, everybody knows they are looking for ‘treatment.’ They want financial handouts and sundry paraphernalia and favours. Many have come to feast. And so, the cooking fireplace is busy.

Our man’s macabre activities are in their element in the cooking pot, courtesy of instructions from a witchdoctor based in Moshi, Tanzania. He has been instructed to bathe in warm water in a bathtub. The water is itself laced with assorted ashes from graves in Moshi.

He paid a princely fee for the ashes and the instructions. When he is done with his ablutions, the now dirty water in the tub is collected in jerry cans. It will be used as an additive in all the cooking in the home. A few litres will be added to everything that they cook for the visiting voting mobs. This is how he locks in their vote. At any rate, this is what the wise man of Moshi instructed.

But the Moshi man told him something else. Accordingly, the man will kill a number of bulls – one at a time – for the carousals. This will keep the voters permanently in his compound.

Warm urine

After the insides have been removed from the carcass of the bulls, the man, now stark naked, will irrigate the meat with warm urine. He will then slide into the carcass, still stark naked. He will roll in there, chanting strange words from Tanzania.

The meat may now be prepared, with litres of water from his bathroom. The man can now prance about the place saying things like, “This one I have already taken. Nobody can beat me.”

How do we know all this? Of course, nobody knows whether it is true or not. It is just what everybody says about mheshimiwa. And nobody is bold enough to ask him if indeed these things that we hear about him are true or false. His opponents may once in a while talk about them. Yet, they do so only in the safety of distance.

So, again, it may be true or it may just be propaganda. Propaganda, witchcraft and politics blend very well. We get to hear all manner of morbid stories about the political class in this election season. There are those who sacrifice their close relatives to the occult – or so we are told.

There is a whisper galore of politicians from Western, Nyanza, Lower Eastern and from the Coast, who have ‘killed their relatives in exchange for political power.’ It may be a son, a daughter, a sibling or a parent.

The master spinners of these tales tell us that there must be a blood link between the politician and the person offered to the prince of darkness.

True or false, there is a tendency for these narratives to be believed. Woe unto you, therefore, should you be the politician who loses a beloved one in this campaign season.

The explanation is simple – you have sacrificed them to the devil. In exchange, you have been promised the seat. The attendant tragedy is that you cannot even talk about it. You may know, or have cause to know, that people are whispering about you and your departed relative. But there is just nothing you can do about it. If you talk about it, you only give it more fuel and grip.

Wicked narratives

Meanwhile, your adversaries are running all over the place with the story.

The narrative itself gains power because there is at least one element of truth in it. It is a fact that your relative died. Propaganda thrives best where there is some truth in what is said. In this case, you cannot deny that your relative died. It is worse for you if the death was sudden. That this person is dead is enough to legitimise the propaganda against you.

The wicked narratives are likely to hold better when they are left to be vague. The master propagandist knows that the human mind likes to be allowed space for its own creativity. In every narrative, therefore, the propagandist will just spin one line, “That is why he killed his mother.” And when asked to explain, he will simply say, “Oh, so you didn’t know? Okay.” He lights up your imagination and leaves you to your own devices.

Those hearing the story will now allow their own fancy to go into flight. As they pass on the story, they colour and cloud it with their own details. They connect all manner of disjointed dots in your life and in their imagination. In the end, the person who began the propaganda against you may not even recognise the story.

The only common thing is that you are so hopelessly ‘dirty’ in the public eye. Nobody wants to touch you. As you speak to people, they look at you with horrified expressions on their faces. They are all the time silently wondering, ‘So, this is him, the one who gives people tea that he has irrigated with his own urine? And he wants our votes? Really?’ Such is the power of gray propaganda.

For as long as there will continue to be popular competitions in politics, propaganda and possible forays into the occult will remain. Sometimes people will flee to the occult, to find answers to the unknown. Yet, others will have occult stories told about them, because such things gel well with the voter’s imagination.

Barrack Muluka is publisher and commentator on social issues