More Kenyan celebrities are lining up to try their luck in politics, building on a string of recent successes by their colleagues at the ballot box.
The P-Unit music group duo of Mr Francis Amisi, popularly known as Frasha, and Mr Gabriel Kagundu, or Gabu, have both declared intention to run for county assembly seats, while entertainer Arthur Mandela, alias Xtian Dela, wants to be a Member of Parliament.
The trio are seeking to emulate local and international celebrities who have used their popularity to launch careers in elective politics.
If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of your action heroes. He graced the big screen with his starring roles in Commando (1985), Predator (1987), and The Terminator series.
In 2003, the former bodybuilder rolled into the governor’s mansion in California, US, with a landslide victory.
The world over, hundreds of entertainers have their fingers in many different pies and some have had varying degrees of success in politics.
In 1981, former Hollywood star Ronald Reagan easily claimed the White House. Known for his roles in The Killers (1964), The Hasty Heart (1949), and more, Americans elected him as their 40th President.
In 2016, Donald Trump stunned the world when he floored the better placed Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the US. The real estate mogul had starred in the reality TV series, The Apprentice.
In Eastern Europe, Ukrainians elected a comedian as their president when Mr Volodymyr Zelensky scored a landslide victory on May 20, 2019 while closer home, Madagascar picked a 34-year-old DJ to lead the nation in 2009. The world took notice when Andry Rajoelina swapped nightclubs in Antananarivo for State House.
For most of these celebrities, the shift from the red carpet to the corridors of power has been seamless. Name recognition puts them in good stead as any accomplishment as an artist brings with it reputation and integrity.
Popular musician Charles Njagua, known by his stage name Jaguar, and comedian John Kiarie, who performed with Redykyulass, capitalised on their shows to rally support for parliamentary seats in Nairobi.
Propelled by the youth, they claimed victories in the 2017 General Election in Starehe and Dagoretti South, respectively. In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Kiarie said he joined politics to serve the common man.
They brought hope to young people and other artists, who felt well represented in Parliament. The entertainment industry had for many years been overlooked by policy makers and there was hope that Mr Kiarie and Mr Njagua would champion the needs of artists.
But four years down the line, not much has changed in the industry. Royalty payment remains a huge challenge, while the 60 per cent local content rule is yet to be enforced.
With months to the polls, a new crop of artists hopes to right the wrongs of the past with their entry into politics. Comedian Felix Odiwour, popularly known as Jalang’o, is eyeing the Lang’ata parliamentary seat.
Entertainer Arthur Mandela alias Xtian Dela, who has had many issues with the Kenya Film Classification Board and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations over his content, will run in Westlands Constituency.
In May last year, he was summoned by the DCI to record a statement over his controversial show, ‘Club Covid’, on Instagram. “I’ll be the Westlands MP in 2022. Let’s show them the power of social media and the power of the youth, who are tired of old and useless politicians. We will win. Our voices must be heard,” Dela said.
The vlogger pledged to create jobs and safe spaces for young people to make money with their creativity.
“This country is so messed up that I have to stop my private businesses to help run it. I have decided to be on the forefront of change rather than shout from the back. I believe true change starts from us. We are the true change,” Dela said.
In Athi River, Mr Francis Amisi, popularly known as Frasha from the hip-hop group P-Unit, seeks to become the ward’s next Member of County Assembly.
He failed at the nominations in 2017 and hopes for better prospects this time. “I had hoped to vie using a Maendeleo Chap Chap party ticket, but I lost in the nominations. This time I hope to run as an independent candidate, though I am still open to a good political vehicle,” Frasha said.
Having grown up in Athi River, he appreciates the challenges facing the town, including the stagnation of development projects, poor garbage collection, the sorry state of infrastructure, and pollution.
“Athi River needs a fresh start and it is time the youth came together and took up these spaces for change. The old generation has been in charge for so long. I’ll ensure there are creative spaces for artists,” he said.
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Frasha said most performing artists do not benefit from their talent because of a few selfish individuals who hold important positions in the industry.
“We’ve had the same problems for too long. Lack of payment by collective management organisations (CMOs). There was a music copyright act that was passed by Parliament, which stated that TV and radio programmes should have 60 per cent local content, but this has not been implemented. If our content is not played, how are we going to make money?” he posed.
“I’ve been around for 17 years. I’ll always be an artist, whether I excel in politics or not,” Frasha said.
Mr Gabriel Kagundu or Gabu, also of P-Unit, is looking to bring change to Woodley residents. “It is about time the youth got a seat on the table and not fall for the same promises given to them by people who have been in government for more than 20 years. The truth is that artists are not making money, and Covid-19 has not helped the situation,” he said.
“This is our time; the youth should come out in large numbers. We cannot afford to just sit back and continue complaining, wishing something different is going to happen. It’s upon us to take action and determine our tomorrow,” he added.
Original posted at allafrica.com