She’s a leader with the word ‘King’ in her name, and not only has she dared to challenge the political landscape, but writer, actor, former presidential aspirant and satirist Kingwa Kamencu recently brought forth a lighthearted look at Kenyan politics by doing what everyone was talking about yet not really doing – getting to the naked truth about the country’s unending political woes. She’s been called a lot of things, including “crazy” but it seems that the words that most stick should be “intelligent”, “creative” and “radical” perhaps.
Kamencu, a graduate of both the University of Nairobi and Oxford University (where she was the President of the African Society) has been a fresh new voice in the current season of Kenyan politics. In a field which seems to have been filled with the same old faces and just a few newcomers who made passionate pleas for change, her youth and headline-grabbing tactics seemed made for successful inroads. In 2011, at the age of 27, she became the youngest woman to declare her candidacy for president, a bid that was highly publicised but came to nothing as she eventually didn’t appear on the ballot in 2013. Her latest approach to politics may be viewed as a continuation of that previous political engagement, and assuring that she remains in the public eye. In this sense, the ‘reality show’ part is in some ways self-deprecating, and in another way satirising the naked ambitions of so many people with political aspirations. She has however stated that she’s been involved in many other things since that time, and politics is but one of her major interests. Her day job is working with a civil society organisation focused on governance and leadership.
She’s called her new web series, “Madame President”, a reality show, and it is reality only in the sense that truth is stranger than fiction. A woman running for president would be running against reality show hosts, misogynists, racists, those unfit to be president… oops, sorry. Wrong country. Wrong story. Lost the focus for a moment there. Back to Kingwa, the woman with a name fit for a leader. The woman who would be president is a provocateur, and she knows it. From a short observation, one can deduce that she’s necessary in a country rife with misogyny and the ubiquitous corruption. The patriarchy and the Presidency never hesperredit, in other words.
Kamencu released the first episode in the Madame President series on Facebook, on the day Kenyans went to the polls earlier this month. It was a week of tension as Kenyans asked for a peaceful turnout, and thankfully for the most part they got that, though at least 28 people were reported to have died due to election-related violence. The incumbent won, but the opposition leader’s coalition decided to challenge the final tally. A not unusual scenario.
From the outside looking in, Kamencu’s web series also seems to be a way to point at the seemingly dead-on-arrival nature of party politics, showing how even the so-called revolutionary spirit is about an ego-intoxication, and battles are self-directed or with those who surround you when building a political persona.
Watch the first episode of Madame President:
In the second episode Kamencu appeared naked, an act which ensured that she would be talked about. Apparently, this isn’t the first time. Her satire works, and if the comments are to be believed, numerous Kenyans applaud her tactics. In this instance, many Kenyans commenting seemed appreciative that her sauciness was well-directed. Some were unimpressed. If we were to put it to a vote, she would have won this round.