- By Neha PaliwalNeha Paliwal is the Editorial Assistant for Democracy Lab.
As James Verini notes in his dispatch from Nairobi this weekend, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta are the frontrunners in Kenya’s closely watched presidential election on Monday. But one other candidate has been garnering the lion’s share of the laughs, if not actual votes. After the last election sparked ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead — and with one of the top two candidates facing a trial for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court — Kenyans could use a smile or two. Cue Mohammed Abduba Dida. As one Twitter user exclaimed ahead of the country’s second presidential debate last Monday:
— Capt. Ronald Speirs (@JKukka) February 25, 2013
A teacher by trade, Dida has three wives, stringent morals, and effervescent charm. He comes across as a political outsider who is truly interested in improving the lives of Kenyans, and the Internet adores him. Too bad nobody will ever vote for him.
At times Dida seems sensible enough. During the second debate, for instance, the candidate pointed out the futility of asking corrupt officials to comment on their underhanded dealings. Tweets during the event said it all:
— Presidential Debate(@KenyaDebate2013) February 25, 2013
— K24 TV (@K24Tv) February 25, 2013
But at other times things have gone a bit off-kilter. Dida’s eccentricities have inspired memes and a parody Twitter account, and his name dominated live-tweeting of the first presidential debate. In promoting preventative health care during that debate, for instance, he argued
that people should eat when they are hungry if they want to be healthy. "I do not know who brought these eating schedules with lunch and dinner," he observed. "When you are hungry you do not fill up your belly with food; you need a third of food, a third of water then the other third is breathing space." Check out this coverage of the sensation Dida created in the wake of the first debate:
Dida speaks to Kenyans who are dissatisfied with rampant corruption and inequality. Unlike Kenyan politicians, the candidate points out, "Jesus would not drive home with a convoy of six cars when it’s raining on innocent Kenyans on the streets," so when he becomes president neither will he. Unfortunately, there’s very little chance of that happening.