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CITY GIRL: A guide to becoming an activist, the Kenyan style

By CITY GIRL September 4th, 2015 4 min read

I am not going to waste valuable meat-wrapping space on niceties and introduction. Here is a complete guide to being the most successful Kenyan activist.

1. Be dramatic: Drama is the food that activism feeds on. You are no activist until you have staged a spectacular deed that will bring the world to a ‘standstill’.

Pick an issue. Say land grabbing. Collect little children, idlers, thugs and all manner of characters and assemble them one morning. But that’s after you have promised them lunch of Sh500. Call journalists. Make sure there are lots of cameras and journalists are on your side.

Speed is the saving grace of an activist. You’ve got to be a lightweight; you don’t want police and angry GSUs to break a sweat while shoving you into a waiting ‘mariamu’.

The whole idea is to be as dramatic as possible. Lie on the ground. Cry if you have to. Shout “Hii serikali sio ya mama yako.”

I mean, just be dramatic. Court attention at all costs. You start slowly. Soon, you become a familiar face and people can pick you out in the streets.

Make sure you are arrested a couple of times. The worth of an activist is measured by the number of times he has been arrested. As tree rings determine the age of a tree, so do arrests determine the value of an activist. You are not an activist unless you have been roughed up by police. A fat lip and a red eye are the true marks of an activist.

Even better if you are a female activist who has been assaulted. More mileage for you. An activist’s first call of duty is to cause public drama, get arrested, get roughed up, take photos and post them on social media.

Also, don’t forget the side shows. These are very important. Engineer a fake death threat and claim that a certain politician wants to kill you using stones. Publicly claim that your life is in danger and that your enemies have sent goons to finish you. Make it look like you are a very important asset on the hit list of powerful and dangerous people.

Concoct elephant tales about how goons stoned your car because you blew the whistle on some big man. Now that you have a few arrests under your belt, you are now ready for level two.

2. Become a social media bigwig: A bigwig, for my non-tech savvy readers, is a person with a lot of followers on social media. Not tens of Twitter followers. I am talking hundreds of thousands of followers.

If you don’t have a lot of followers on social media, don’t worry. I’ll show you how. Pick an issue. I like land grabbing, so land grabbing it is. Tweet about it. Rant, actually. Go amok on social media. Sensationalism and exaggeration is the fuel on which activism runs.

Blow issues out of proportion. A road has a single pothole? Say that road was never properly built and accuse people of ‘eating’ the money meant for development.

The beginning is usually tough, especially on social media. I am afraid you will have to break a sweat here. A good idea you might consider is to start unleashing ‘private dossiers’ and ‘scandals’ on big companies and government officials.

Create a buzz around the release of the dossier and then start tweeting and posting Facebook status about the issue.

Pick a boring Monday morning or Friday afternoon to unleash your privately acquired dossiers. While you are at it, create a hashtag to drive the conversation.

Take photos of that secret dossier and claim that your life is in danger and that the CEO of that company or that politician is baying for your blood.

People will begin to take note of you and you will finally sit at the table of Twitter bigwigs. At this point, if you may, please allow me to usher you into the next level.

3. Eliminate competition: Activists hate competition. You are a dramatic activist with a few arrests under your belt, you have thousands of followers on Twitter and you are considered a bigwig.

Just when you thought you could relax and enjoy your dollars, another activist shows up and he looks like he wants to steal your thunder. Don’t allow that. Attack that activist. Preferably on social media. Nothing is more entertaining than beef between two activists.

Assume the role of the head girl (or boy) and make it clear that you are better than all of us. You are the most sensible activist and Kenya needs you. You are the high priest of all activists and you are infallible.

Take this opportunity to publicly insult that other activist, pointing out their shortcomings. Like how they never went to college. Or how they really don’t grasp issues. Or how they come from a poor family.

Use a personal, anonymous blog if need be. Attack them on your personal blog and just to make things juicier, throw in the tribal card. Claim on your nondescript blog that the other activist is a paid mouthpiece for the other community.

You must eliminate competition or else the donors will think you are becoming irrelevant. You are now ready for level four.

4. Publicity, publicity, publicity: Publicity is to an activist what water is to fish. Now that you are an activist to reckon with, complete with a legion of online followers and you have won a couple of Twitter beefs, you are ripe for your maiden television interview.

As an activist, you will find yourself in a position where you will be called upon by media to give TV interviews. You are lucky that our local television standards are ‘very pathetically low’, just about anyone can be called upon to give their opinion on live TV.

In most cases, because TV editors know that you are idle and would give anything to appear on telly, you will be called on short notice.

You will also be a permanent fixture on failing morning shows that have very poor ratings – mostly discussing the day’s news as if the audience cannot read for themselves.

You will be required to give your pedestrian and roadside opinion on just about anything under the sun and this is your opportunity to shine.

It is also your opportunity to sell your baseless agenda, mostly depending on which foreign donor you are serving (or servicing).