Nairobi, Kenya – Many understand him as immoral, outright loopy or each.
However George Wajackoyah, one among 4 front-line presidential candidates in Kenya, is urgent on, hoping to develop into the fifth elected president and clear up the nation’s debt burden by legalising hashish farming and exporting hyena testicles.
Tuesday’s presidential vote is seen as a straight contest between Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, however much less has been mentioned concerning the different two – David Mwaure, a conservative clergyman, and Wajackoyah.
However the latter, a 62-year-old professor of regulation and former policeman whose unconventional marketing campaign to date has taken the street much less travelled, away from the insult hurling that’s rife in Kenya’s political campaigns.
In 10 years, the nationwide debt has gone from 2 trillion shillings ($16.8bn), or 40 % of gross home product (GDP), to 9 trillion shillings ($75.5bn), or 67 % of GDP, and analysts say the subsequent president faces a tall order in reviving Kenya’s financial fortunes.
“The rising of marijuana … will allow this nation to pay its excellent money owed, and guarantee Kenyans have the funds for wherever they’re in order that we are able to maintain and arrest the [debt] scenario,” Wajackoyah mentioned.
“China in 2021 planted 169,000 acres of marijuana and made $1.2bn in returns,” he added, referring to Kenya’s prime creditor. “Right here is China that we’re 9 trillion shillings in debt, which means we’re spending China’s marijuana cash on our initiatives.”
He plans a large-scale export of hyena testicles and snake venom to provide Kenya sufficient export revenues and legalise hashish farming for medicinal functions, which, he says, would fetch Kenya 9.2 trillion shillings ($77.2bn) a yr.
The proceeds would assist clear Kenya’s debt and afford every citizen 200,000 shillings ($1,679) in annual dividends, he has mentioned.
Unsurprisingly, that has stimulated a nationwide debate on the topic and his candidacy has cultivated a small and rising followership.
A lifetime of many twists and turns
A seasoned lawyer, Wajackoyah shocked many when he promised to droop the structure for a month if elected and to hold convicted criminals to demise with rope product of hemp.
However younger folks have been excited by his promise to institute four-day working weeks and his campaigns have been extra like music live shows than rallies.
Sandwiched between younger girls wearing skimpy crochet outfits and Rastafarian colors, the sexagenarian has proven up in bars and nightclubs, dancing to blaring reggae music earlier than addressing his viewers.
He wore a durag and a T-shirt to submit his presidential nomination kind for the Roots Get together on the workplace of the Unbiased Electoral and Boundaries Fee (IEBC).
And regardless of being a proponent of hashish legalisation, he says he neither smokes nor drinks and can be a vegetarian.
A number of native studies have indicated that he has 16 levels, together with a doctorate from Walden College in the USA in addition to a sophisticated diploma in French from the College of Burundi. He speaks English, French, Swahili, Luhya and Luo.
He grew up on the streets of Nairobi and has instructed reporters that he was solely three years previous when his dad and mom deserted him after their divorce. He claimed to have taken to the streets whereas attempting to find his mom who was rumoured to have moved to Uganda.
A well-wisher reportedly rescued him and enrolled him at school, a narrative he tells to avenue youngsters whereas encouraging them to take training significantly.
Wajackoyah additionally reportedly spent 10 years within the Kenya Police Service’s Particular Department as a spy beneath the Daniel Arap Moi administration. He reportedly fled into exile after unearthing damaging particulars concerning the assassination of one among its ministers, Robert Ouko.
Details about his postings within the dreaded spy service within the Moi period is scanty however in a single interview, he defined that he fled the nation in 1991 to the UK.
Whereas there and learning regulation, he claims to have fended for himself by being a gravedigger, later shifting to the US to spice up his tutorial credentials.
The professor is married to an American citizen with three youngsters who’re cut up between the US and the UK.
‘An affect on the folks’
For a largely non secular and conservative nation, Wajackoyah’s eccentricity and position in politics have been questioned by members of the general public.
At an August 6 rally for Odinga, Emily Adhiambo, a 31-year-old who does menial jobs in Kiambi, a Nairobi slum, mentioned she wouldn’t vote for the professor as a result of “Wajackoyah will spoil our youngsters with bhang [cannabis]”.
When members of Kenya’s clergy got here out strongly calling him out for tearing the society’s “ethical cloth”, he retorted at a rally within the Nairobi central enterprise district by saying the bishops “don’t know what they’re speaking about”.
“Bhang is smoked in Israel, even Jesus smoked weed,” he continued because the youths cheered him on.
Quite a lot of youths, tickled by his ideologies, trailed his marketing campaign truck chanting his slogan, “bangi! bangi! bangi!”, the Swahili phrase for hashish.
“Kenya has one of the best marijuana on the earth,” he introduced in the course of the rally. “All of the flower beds shall be became lovely inexperienced shrubs of bhang.”
On the marketing campaign path, the professor of regulation largely dons sweatpants and a T-shirt with “Roots Life” inscribed as a reference to his political social gathering and a trademark durag on his greying hair, There are additionally the sandals which he shoves apart usually, preferring to stroll barefoot.
Generally, he wears inexperienced coveralls with Rastafarian tags and inscriptions.
It’s a departure from years in the past when he appeared in court docket with fits accessorised with a bow tie. His gray beard was additionally neatly trimmed then, in contrast to its increasing mass now.
Kenyan elections might be pressured right into a second spherical if no candidate will get greater than an outright 50 % of the vote. So, it has been prompt that he’s “a state venture”, strategically positioned within the presidential race to take sufficient votes from the main candidates.
This comes as President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ruling Jubilee social gathering and the state equipment have been backing former opposition chief Odinga, beneath the umbrella of the Azimio la Umoja coalition.
At a membership in Kisumu on June 24, Wajackoyah requested for respect for Odinga, in what many interpreted as both a pledge of help or a Freudian slip.
“I’ve roots within the Luo neighborhood and we should respect Raila. If you happen to don’t vote for me you then would somewhat vote for him,” he mentioned.
However Wajackoyah is unperturbed by those that say he stands no probability of successful. For him, the endgame is to not win elections however to vary mindsets. “A win is once I affect on the folks, and that I already see,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
That change within the mindset has already landed a few of his staunch supporters in bother with the regulation.
On June 12, a die-hard fan Boniface Mutua was arraigned in court docket for smoking throughout campaigns. He pleaded responsible however argued that he smokes hashish to get braveness to marketing campaign for the Roots Get together.
“Who is aware of, I is likely to be among the many industrial farmers of bhang if my candidate is elected President and legalises marijuana,” Mutua acknowledged amid laughter inside the court docket.
Benard Ogoye, a Nairobi resident, mentioned although he doesn’t help Wajackoyah’s presidential bid, he helps legalising hashish to regulate its utilization and likes the marketing campaign.
“Political seasons are sometimes so tense and Wajackoyah provides humour to it, easing the environment,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Certainly, the professor nameed a comic, Jaymo Ule Msee, as his spokesperson.
Dismus Mokua, a Nairobi-based political analyst believes that the unorthodox campaigning has gotten Wajackoyah nationwide consideration, in a rustic the place the main focus is on two candidates.
“I feel he’s positioning himself as a global lobbyist for marijuana,” mentioned Mokua. “He’s a really good man and clearly, being president just isn’t his objective … when main prescribed drugs are searching for uncooked supplies or international locations the place they’ll develop bhang, they’ll know who to strategy.”