What Kriss Darlin's prostration says about our politics, society
Many people think that Darlin’s daring move was a publicity stunt. A political move aimed at catapulting him into popularity.
But when you take a deeper and closer look, I do not think that Darlin was joking, and neither was this a publicity stunt.
I think he meant what he said, I think he was earnest as he knelt down before Baba and I think he knew what he was doing.
Darlin knows that when you are a young and helpless youth without blue blood flowing through your veins, you have to beg.
Last weekend, the most horrifying thing happened at a political rally in Kibra constituency. Chrispinus Odhiambo, a popular DJ who goes by the stage name Kriss Darlin, did the unthinkable. In what was a foolish, poorly thought-out move, Darlin knelt before former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and literally begged him to ‘hold his hand’ in the upcoming Kibra by-election. Darlin dug his hole even deeper. He told Raila, “Let them shoot me, if it means that you remain and lead in 2022 … I ask that you hold my hand Baba …”
This young man, eager and desperate to get into politics through the Kibra by-election, was ready to do anything for the political boss, Raila Odinga, including taking a bullet if it meant that Raila would stick around to govern in 2022.
Many people think that Darlin’s daring move was a publicity stunt. A political move aimed at catapulting him into popularity. But when you take a deeper and closer look, I do not think that Darlin was joking, and neither was this a publicity stunt. I think he meant what he said, I think he was earnest as he knelt down before Baba and I think he knew what he was doing.
This is why I will probably spare the young man my share of criticism, not just because he has been criticised enough, but because I somehow get him. I know where he is coming from and also because I am looking at this from a different perspective — that of a Kenyan youth.
I say this because Darlin represents the typical Kenyan youth. Having grown up himself in Kibra, in a life of lack and poverty, Darlin understands what many Kenyan youth know; that in Kenya there are a few, ‘special’ individuals — mafia, you may call them — who control just about anything and everything.
Darlin said it very clearly in an interview with a local newspaper: “Raila, having been the area MP for over two decades and because Kibra is one of ODM’s zones in the city, he will have the final say on who succeeds Okoth”.
Darlin and other young people know that in Kenya, there are some “lords” with whom everything is possible and without whom nothing is possible. I will say that again, in simpler terms. Darlin knows that when you are a young and helpless youth without blue blood flowing through your veins, you have to kneel, beg, convince and persuade some overlords to get to where you want to be.
And this is not a secret. Especially in our political circles. If some of these young and not-so-young politicians were to be honest, and I mean really honest, they would shock you with the lengths that they have had to go to please some political overlords just to get their foot in the door.
This right here is the source of a very toxic Kenyan culture that any young person going out into the country fresh from school has to contend with. That it is not so much about what you know, but who you know that will get you ahead in the Kenyan ladder. Our young people know that the life of an average Kenyan is not as straightforward as they wish it to be, that you have got to bribe your way through a government office to get a service. That you have to suck up, bend over backwards and do God knows what to please certain big people.
Kenyan youth, just like Darlin, know that there are some few individuals in this country who can turn around your life for good because, in the words of the DJ himself, they have “the final say”.
And that is a very sad story, dear readers. That we have created a culture where hard work does not pay; where a young man who has a dream cannot independently vie for a political seat based on his ideals and win unless he has the backing of a powerful “baba”. That we have reduced our young people to kneeling before fellow human beings, to vowing to sacrifice their own lives for a political master just so that he could stick around and rule in a couple of years. What we saw with Darlin is no different from the young people in the streets who upon every general election are used by politicians to fight their battles and lay their lives for them.
What we need in this country is to change our systems to empower our young people to love and respect themselves enough to know that you do not have to bow before your fellow human being to make it in life. We need to have transparent systems where the Kenyan dream is achieved by hard work and resilience. We need to teach our young people that they can fly on their own, depend on their own talents and abilities and not have to humiliate themselves trying to please another man. Lastly, we need to do away with these toxic political “lords” who think they have the future of young people in their hands.
For now, I wish Darlin well in his political pursuits. More importantly, I hope that when he finally makes it, he will never have to make young people bow before him to get his political blessing.
Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications;