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How KJ seamlessly turned into JJ Kamotho, the man he parodied

Politics
Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie alias KJ. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

JJ Kamotho was the model stooge. A sidekick of his master, he insulated him from the realities on the ground with false praise.

Kamotho also played the attack dog role quite brilliantly and would help suppress potential threats to the big boss.

He earned enemies. Of course. He also earned proteges, as Kenya has now come to learn.

In the sunset years of President Daniel arap Moi's tenure in office, a young man would emerge to imitate his role model, Kamotho. The nation would know him as KJ, which, sadly, is not short for Kamotho Junior, but Kiarie John.

He wasn't nearly half as plump as the President's master of ceremonies but made up for his physical shortcomings with a voice that matched his role model's. 

KJ, the son of a one-time MP, Waweru Ng'ethe and perennial presidential candidate, also sported a hat like Kamotho's and took his place by the master's side.

Many at the time believed that, fed up with the government of the day, KJ and his Redykyulass compadres employed humour to mock State functionaries.

But as they have recently revealed, the Redykyulass crew were mostly infatuated with the characters they parodied. Hence, we can explain why KJ sounds more and more like Kamotho of the 90s, to whom reality was whatever he told his boss.

KJ played many characters. He caricatured Njenga Karume and his heavy tongue, and cross-dressed way before it became fashionable.

But none of the other characters stuck. Indeed, KJ is not the illiterate man he portrayed Karume to be. He can be eloquent when in the mood for it. Similarly, he abandoned skirts for suits. The only remnant from his other characters is his debating prowess, borrowed from Veronica Waithera, a school girl who simama-d "imara kama Pilsner" to oppose the then President's retirement.

In all his comedy years, a rival to Kamotho never really came. And he borrowed his perspective on reality and Kamotho's dedication to massaging his master's ego.

This past week, the Mheshimiwa for Dagoretti South was urging President William Ruto, who also goes by the street name Zakayo and "Ruto-Must-Go" among the Gen Zs, to ignore his eyes.

Amid a never-before-seen revolt sparked by the controversial Finance Bill, KJ was in Bunge telling the President that the images on every TV screen and the front pages of newspapers were not from Kenya.

"I am a graphic editor," KJ proclaimed in the hoarsest of voices. "I am a photo expert!"

KJ could be right. Educated in the fine arts, the man who smiles with his molars is an editor. Just of truths. Not realities. 

At that moment in Bunge, KJ sounded like the Kamotho of Redykyulass who, careful not to hurt his master's feelings, told him that the previous episode of the show featured a "safari rally" and not the usual criticism.

Few sycophants believe their words as they are only meant to assuage their superior's fears. KJ seems to have skipped this chapter of the Stooges' Rule Book.

He believed his lies. Convinced that Kenyans were happy with the Finance Bill, he brayed "Yes" on Thursday. On Friday, he would struggle to convince mourners that he was photoshopped in Bunge.

"Nooo! Nooo!" the masses yelled, booing him from the platform before he could tell them the stories he tells his boss.

Born and bred in Dagoretti, KJ grew up in the years before social media. The truth then was whatever the radio said, as many families still could not afford TVs. KJ, who claims to be tech-savvy, appears stuck in that world, which also rewards hero worship.

He didn't have the harshest of upbringings, but adulthood threw its curveballs. For the longest time, KJ had tried to unseat Beth Mugo as Dagoretti MP, falling short at each attempt.

Ignoring ethnic pressures, he had sought the seat through Raila Odinga's ODM. In 2017, he retraced his ethnic roots and joined former President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee and was successful in his quest.

For many years, he had spoken of his dream to participate in the transformation of Kenya's leadership. He believed that successive regimes had let Kenyans down. He wanted to be the change he spoke about. Turns out he was more interested in preserving Kamotho's legacy of unquestionable loyalty.

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