Mysticism has long played a part in politics, hence the claim that President Uhuru Kenyatta was directly responsible for the sudden rain that recently pounded Nyeri County.
Mysticism, alongside faith and intuition, may be the less scientific and reliable modes of knowledge in political inquiry, but are as exciting and believable to some.
Such is the case of the President, who started his voter registration drive meeting in Nyeri on January 20 with a short prayer in Kikuyu language, asking God to bless the community with rainfall. Strangely, the meeting was disrupted by an immediate heavy downpour.
While some say this is sheer coincidence, other political supporters of Mr Kenyatta believe he possesses mystical powers. Indeed the development has generated a lot of excitement on social media with some people even viewing the President as a prophet.
Coming at a time when Mr Kenyatta is in the middle of a crucial lap in this year’s political contest, historian Prof Macharia Munene opines that the rainfall — according to local belief — denotes good luck and symbolises the anointment of Kenyatta as the appropriate leader.
Such a deduction might neither be empirical nor rational, but it represents the beliefs that political players play on to build a strong support base. Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta and first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, for instance, were revered and feared in equal measure because of their perceived supernatural powers.
Having staged their political activities during the pre-independence period, the duo and other leading politicians had to engage in secretive manoeuvres to evade arrest from the colonial government officials.
Owing to their well designed intelligence networks, Prof Munene says Kenyatta and fellow freedom fighters managed to evade arrests sometimes by a whisker — an act that convinced locals and troops allied to Colonial Governor Sir Evelyn Baring into believing they operated in mysterious circumstances.
“Before his eventual arrest and trial in Kapenguria in 1952, for instance, Jomo Kenyatta had completely eluded traps laid by the colonialists. At one point, when completely cornered, he jumped onto a lorry transporting sacks of potatoes,” recalls the historian.
The senior Kenyatta himself has claimed in his Facing Mount Kenya autobiography that one of his ancestors possessed divine powers.
Andrew Kwena, a former senior civil servant who worked in the then intelligence outfit, Special Branch, and later in the Customs Department, describes Jomo Kenyatta as a very powerful and intimidating individual: “He spoke more powerfully with facial expressions than words. When he looked at you straight in the eye, you involuntarily looked the other way. His eyes were piercing and searching.”
Mr Kwena, who upon retirement joined politics, also rubbed shoulders with Jaramogi among other high-profile politicians. He describes the former VP as “completely puzzling” with regard to his outfit and demeanour: “Like one who was constantly being pursued, he liked moving around incognito by camouflaging himself like an ordinary individual.”
In his Luo Nyanza backyard, there was talk about his magical walking stick. He would use it to punish or bless his political rivals and allies alike.
If he did not like a particular leader, he pointed the walking stick at him consigning them to the political cold. Jaramogi, for instance, reportedly gestured in favour of one of the pioneer Kenyan female politicians, Phoebe Asiyo of Karachuonyo, in 1979.
Even the second President, Daniel arap Moi, was not left out in the display of mysterious powers. Former Cabinet minister, Musa Sirma, explains that Moi settled for a gold-tipped ivory stick, or rungu in Kiswahili.
“Although this is more of a culture of the Kalenjin, it did the trick for Moi. Among our people, leaders must carry something which signifies power,” says the former Eldama Ravine MP.
Indeed a lot of mystery surrounded the Moi rungu, with some proclaiming unknown dangers in the event former President lost the “magic stick” or forgot to carry it along.
All in all, Sirma and Munene opine that the supernatural power attributed to political leaders is largely the creation of men and women aimed at elevating their preferred politicians to a demigod level.