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‘Colourful’ animals dragged into campaigns by party supporters [Photos]

By Kennedy Gachuhi | November 17th 2021

Brian Murithi on his Jubilee branded donkey on September 22 2017, at the Meru stage where he amused many with his animal. [Peter Muthomi, Standard]

The use of symbols is an integral part of political campaigns globally. But the use of live animals in political gatherings is now gaining traction. 

Ready-made food and animals have been among the most used symbols through which Kenyans humourously express their support for or dissatisfaction with a particular subject.

Last week, a group of Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters came under fire after they presented him with a goat painted in yellow, green and black, with his name and ‘United Democratic Alliance’ scribbled on it.

To them, this was a gesture of loyalty and warm welcome for a guest whom they consider their favourite presidential hopeful.

While the DP warmly received the gift, actions by the youth attracted heavy criticism from animal rights activists led by the Union of Veterinary Practitioners of Kenya (UVPK).

“The union has noted with concern the rise in cases of cruelty to animals for political reasons. Physical body application of either acrylic or latex paints constitutes cruelty, which is punishable by law,” said UVPK secretary-general Miheso Mulembani.

On October 19, Ruto, while on a tour of the coastal region, entered Lamu riding on a donkey. Many described it as an imitation of the biblical triumphant entry into Jerusalem by Jesus.

Deputy President William Ruto admiring a goat painted in UDA colours brought to him by some youth at AIPCA St Joseph Kikopey during a fundraiser on November 7, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Riding donkey

Although riding on donkeys is a common practice in Lamu, the donkey had UDA party banners tied to its ears and neck, which animal rights activists also took issue with.

During a One Kenya Alliance (OKA) rally in Kakamega on October 29, Kanu supporters turned up with decorated cockerels, a symbol of the party.

The use of animals and birds this political season gained popularity in the run-up to the 2017 General Election.

During the 2017 campaigns, a supporter of President Uhuru Kenyatta painted his donkey red, yellow and black, the Jubilee Party colours.

Brian Murithi, 24, from Imenti North and his donkey ‘Karembo’ became an internet sensation as he traversed the sub-county campaigning for Uhuru ahead of the repeat presidential election.

“I am supporting President Uhuru for his manifesto. My appeal is for the people to support me by providing fodder for the donkey as I move around,” said Mr Murithi.

Residents celebrate with branded dogs after Chief Justice of the Supreme Court upheld President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election in 2017 [David Gichuru, Standard]

A day to Uhuru’s swearing-in for his second term, a man turned up at Kasarani Stadium with his three dogs. The man had dressed the canines in Jubilee Party colours and symbols, complete with miniature party flags.

Such activities have drawn the ire of the UVPK, with the union saying that the actions result in undue suffering of the animals.

“The animals are often mishandled, deprived of food and water, causing them unnecessary suffering and infuriation. Persons acting in breach of animal welfare and freedoms should be prosecuted,” the union said.

The 2017 campaigns were also punctuated with calls for the reduction of maize flour prices, which had hit an all-time high. A 2kg packet was retailing at Sh136.

Some Kenyans expressed their frustrations by carrying cooked ugali to political rallies in protest.

In response, President Kenyatta’s administration announced that maize flour prices would be subsidised, and capped the cost of a 2kg packet at Sh90.

“The subsidised price of maize flour was a political ploy. This is only a campaign gimmick. In the next two months, the prices will shoot up,” ODM leader Raila Odinga said after the announcement.

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