Caption :Rufftone performing
They perhaps don’t get enough credit, but as other Kenyan artistes were singing about partying like Calif Records clowns Jua Cali, Nonini or the South C junenile delinquents like Big Pin, Habib, Manga, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji used their art to force a corrupt Government out of office. We Kenyans are not students of history as this particular detail has been consistently ignored, and we are hoping to change that.
At times, popular culture rather than taking cues from the politica process ends up influencing not only political imagination but it’s public expression as was the case with Kenya hip-hop duo of Gidi Gidi, Maji Maji song unbwogable, which was appropriated in 2002 by the Kenyan political bloc that ousted President Daniel Moi’s 24 year dictatorship, according to the book East Africa Hip Hop: Youth Culture and Globalization by Mwenda Ntarangwi published in 2009 and available on Amazon.com
The uniqueness of the word “unbwogable” also caught the attention of Emma Dawson Varughese in her 2012 book “Beyond The Post-Colonial, World Englishes Literature” where she makes reference to the song as it was sung at Uhuru Park after President Kibaki was sworn in in 2002.
On the flipside, singer Rufftone (his real name not of any significance or importance) opted the easy route in a bid to condition the masses and look for a quick buck. At a time when shameless self-promoters have found a footing within the mediocre Jubilee administration, where as long as you get the attention of the President, an invite to Statehouse is guaranteed, Rufftone followed cue.
Caption :Gidi Gidi Maji Maji performing
Ruffhtone’s desperation to overlap his seemingly more creative colleagues, and perhaps earn an award saw him release a song “Mungu Baba” which he collaborated with members of the General Service Unit (GSU) calling for peace and tolerance after during the 2012-2013 electioneering perid.
Peace is not a means to an end. Peace does not automatically translate into prosperity. Peace doesn’t mean food security, good roads, improved hospitals, proper education and the likes. Peddlers of a false sense of peace like Rufftone for the purpose of monetary gain have often been elevated by a partisan mainstream media, that thrives in a status-quo environment.
But it is in this make-believe comfort zone that peace is abused and silence is misconstrued as weakness by Government, where we have recently seen industrial scale corruption where The President and his Deputy have made it their core-business to reward their sycophants and family members by giving them a free hand at plundering national resources for the sake of political expediency.
On December 14th 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made the famous proclamation that “there can be no peace, without justice” because conscience was universal and protests largely fell on deaf ears.
Writers like David Ndii constantly struggle to address situations where fundamental and universal principles are often set aside in the name of political stability and presumed cultural incompatibility. Peace has been peddled more as a means to an end, rather than a process that encompasses tenets that offer equality, human rights and basic wants.
The difference between Gidi Gidi Maji Maji and Rufftone is that the latter chose to impress th status-quo for temporary financial recompense while the former used their art to alter the course of history. Rufftone was an agent of the Jubilee propaganda machinery whose role was to sanitise two war-crimes suspects and show that as long as there was peace, nothing else mattered. Our children’s future may be mortgages and electoral pledges reneged.
Ringtone are the scum of young Kenyans that we need to detach ourselves from, as their individualism and lack of social-awareness has seen them create a bubble in their heads, where they bury their heads under the sand as injustice reigns supreme.
Rufftone represents all the mediocre DJ’s, musicians, radio presenters, fashion-bloggers and the likes, who choke social media with redundant inspirational quotes and self-gratifying photos propagating consumerism and an illusion of success. The same mediocre characters have to fundraise for their friends to travel to India for healthcare, have to endure bad roads, are also victims of runaway crime and the likes, yet they fail to connect this plight to the current Governance structure that has allowed corruption to thrive. Every one of them is desperate to be politically-correct.
We need to borrow a leaf from the football establishment in Kenya. Stakeholders in football are one admirable lot. They will never fail to cease the opportunity to express their contempt at either bad governance, or poor results, as was seen when they protested against Nick Mwendwa and his Jubilee-type lies on some grand plan to take Kenya to WorldCup 2022 yet he cannot beat a lowly-ranked Guinea Bissau.
Football groupings around the world in countries like Turkey, Egypt operating as “Ultras” have been at the heart of protests that have deposed rulers, and Sunday’s protest at Nyayo stadium were not necessarily aimed at Nick Mwendwa who is an inconsequential barking dog, but it’s owner William Ruto.
Gidi Gidi Maji Maji will forever remain in the history of Kenya’s fight for a second liberation, and we hope that their reincarnates will arise for a third revolution.
Here we borrow a brilliant piece by Joyce Nyairo, a former lecturer and cultural analyst, slightly Editted to suit today’s audience. She has done a deeper study on Gidi Gidi Maji Maji’s “unbwogable” revolution.
Our reform has been associated with particular individuals and therein lies the problem. For while this group of actors came together as far back as the 1980s to debate and fashion ways of toppling the dictatorship seeded in the Kenyatta years and perfected in Moi’s one-party state, there have been others along the way who have contributed to the (re)birth of democracy.
The older ones may remember with nostalgia the firey sermons of Bishop Henry Okullu, the Rev Timothy Njoya and Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki.
We remember with equal emotion the bravado of the Kamukunji meetings that took the lives of some while renewing the political credentials of others – Charles Rubia, Martin Shikuku, and James Orengo, to name a few. These battles were not always about facing police truncheons and tear gas. They were also about articulating democratic ideals to challenge the brutal actions of the state.
The ideologues of the movement – Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Willy Mutunga; Apollo Njonjo, Paul Muite – are as important as the slogan-chanting and stone-pelting soldiers of Kamukunji.
But how often do we accord the protest singers like Gidi Gidi Maji Maji and stone-throwers their rightful place in history? Not just by documenting their existence, but by actually calling them to the table for jobs?
And not just because we owe them rewards, but because the work of reforming the state must in large measure involve the transformation of their squalid existence into sites of dignity filled with the plenty that ought to be found everywhere within our borders. We need to see the link between the legacy of stone-throwers in Kamukunji and the emergence of a new breed of urban politicians.
One significant difference between these two eras of protest is that today, unlike in the early 1990s, the graduates of the experience of urban poverty have come out to act on their own behalf.
Forum of the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) founded by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kijana Wamalwa and the likes demanded the opening up of democratic space. They saw this as the starting point in serving the needs of the majority who were being pushed deeper into poverty by the capricious actions of an extremely corrupt state, in similar fashion as Uhuru and Ruto are condemning many youths to joblessness and misery due to their blatant theft of resources meant to generate opportunities.
Today, these questions of urban poverty and endemic land-grabbing are being raised by the immediate bearers of that pain. No longer satisfied to speak through popular song or to be mediated in film, fiction, academic research and NGO proposals, they are now using different tools like social media to effect change.
Hijacked, aborted and personalised movements are not new. Ask the soldiers of the Land and Freedom Army of 1952. Remember the crowds that defiantly chanted “Unbwogable” and put a stop to Moi’s dynastic ambitions?
Soon thereafter, Mr Kenneth Marende, then MP for Emuhaya, said in Mumias: “It’s only MPs who are unbwogable. Teachers cannot also start claiming they are unbwogable in their demands”.
In the same snooty fashion, Prof Nyong’o, the doyen of mass action, later called striking nurses “zombies”. And the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga criticised the LSK for questioning decisions of the vetting board saying, “this trend of challenging every decision is setting a bad precedent”. Seriously? How is it that those who have built their careers on contrariness, on defiance and protest, are the ones now telling us to shut-up and loosen the third degree?
Because reform is not a permanent state of grace. It is a spirit not a person. Reform is dependent on the situation, on human character changing in the wake of a new context. People are reformers today and establishment tomorrow. And as establishment, they brook no questions!
So here are the most important lessons of our last 50 years. All change comes with a new set of contradictions. In every regime there will be oppressive practices and duplicitous leaders. Therefore, every era will need men and women with the clarity of vision to pick out these contradictions. We need men and women with the aptitude and courage to speak up and to speak out even when the spaces for free expression are routinely shut down or constrained.
Regardless of the leaders we elect (mediocre thieves like Uhuru and Ruto) – academics for hire (like Mutahi Ngunyi and Professor Peter Kagwanja); self-appointed reformers; “water melons”; born-again thugs; sly technocrats; wicked warriors; pious pastors or slippery saints – we must not cede the space to question. We must maintain our voices of protest and our traditions of peaceful defiance. For that is the true essence of reform.
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