What the misadventures of Koffi Olomide tell us about violence against women

koffi olomide

Koffi Olomide has had quite a week.

To be honest with you, I’d never heard the name before. My taste in music seems to run parallel with his specialties. I got to know him recently though, and for all the wrong reasons. If you aren’t aware already, let me fill you in.

The renown rhumba singer from the Democratic Republic of Congo was kicked off Kenyan soil on July 22 after clearly kicking one of his dancers.  On the same day of his arrival and still at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he assaulted the lady in front of Kenyan airport police and the media. Now, in another place and time, this incident would have blown over pretty quickly after a few comments thrown around here and there and a slot in the day’s prime-time news. He’s a celebrity after all. All publicity is good publicity.

Unfortunately for Olomide, these are different times.As soon as the videos of his assault hit the interwebs, a  barrage of condemnation and censure descended upon him like hell-fire in the form of social media outcries, especially on Twitter. The 60-year-old singer, known for acting on his anger outbursts, was not getting away with it this time. The jig was up.k2

Olomide’s scheduled performance was cancelled after public outcries to boycott it. He was then taken to the police station and deported, along with three of his dancers the very next day.

Catching up on these events, what first came to my mind was, “Shame on you!” I don’t get how a man old enough to be my father was caught kicking a woman. When confronted about the issue Olomide gave some nonsensical excuse about protecting the lady from muggers. Bah! I wasn’t hearing it.

And neither were a lot of people, men and women alike. Even the higher-ups of Kenyan society spoke out. In a statement, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Youth and Gender affairs, Sicily Kariuki, described his conduct as an insult to Kenyans. The Constitution states that violence against women and girls cannot be accepted in any shape, form or manner.

When he landed back in Kinshasa, Olomide was received by a wave of jeers from the gathered crowd. He was booed by fans as he left the airport for his house in Kinshasa. Following this fiasco, Zambia, where the singer had a series of shows, also cancelled his performances. One of the organisers of that show Njoya Tembo, said, “Koffi has proved to be violent when musicians are generally peace ambassadors.”

But it did not end there.

Olomide was then charged with assault in a Kinshasa court and sentenced to three months in jail. This came after a rigorous campaign to have him arrested was started by Congressman Zakarie Bababaswe, who had filed a petition on behalf of the Congolese public to get the musician punished for assault. His arrest – which was ordered by the attorney-general– was received with jubilation by locals and foreigners, who feel justice must be done for all, and especially in enforcing women’s rights.

As I watched all these events unfold in the space of a week, I just knew I was witnessing a revolution. African countries have generally lagged behind in condemning (and enforcing laws against) violence towards women. Yes efforts are being made, but it is taking longer for us to see the effects. However, this outward condemnation of a seasoned musician in the face of his actions is a sign of progress. If even he can be charged in court and receive a sentence to serve jail time, then we are definitely moving in the right direction. To that I say, hongera! (Swahili for ‘congratulations’).

My cheering didn’t last very long. After just one day, Olomide was released from prison on July 28. For some weird reason, another twitter campaign got him out. This campaign was started after an outcry from his team for DRC to rally behind the singer as he had been ‘unfairly prosecuted’. Please tell me, what unfair prosecution are they referring to? He got what he deserved as far as I’m concerned. Kicking a woman is inexcusable, especially with his past record of similar transgressions.giphy

But you know, what? I still see a victory. Africa has learned something. One cannot get away scot-free for such gender-based violence any longer. Olomide’s trials through the past week will serve as a warning to anyone else even thinking that they can get away with such actions. It is a victory for women in Africa. Mess with us and you’ll receive a stern reminder that we are people too and assault is assault. You can go to jail for that, whether you’re famous or not.

Motherland Moguls, what do you think of the singer being released from his sentence? Sound off below in the comments.

Is the law keeping young African women safe from sexual violence?

Child Bride

It may be 2016, but young Nigerian girls are still being exploited by those who should be protecting them. I’m referring to the father figures, lawmakers, community leaders and even some parents. Only recently, the internet and media went into a frenzy over the notion that the age of consent had been lowered from 18 to 11.

The reason for this confusion? A bunch of subsections under Section 7 of the Sexual Offences Bill postulating penalties for sexual penetration in girls under the ages of 11, 15 and 18. We’re all still asking ourselves why the need to highlight these three ages rather than the relevant one which is 18. This is of major concern as concerns two main areas: child marriages and rape.

Child Brides in Africa

Source: BBC Africa

UNICEF reports that Nigeria is the country with the highest number of child brides across Africa. The number of child brides across Africa is expected to almost triple by the year 2050. It’s been almost 2 years now since the world has been fighting for the return of the Chibok girls following the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Sadly, at this time, we are still waiting and hoping that they are rescued.

Ese’s story

Most people have been following the story of 14-year-old Ese Oruru who was abducted from her base by a man who took her to the North to become his bride. Reports made by the Bayelsa State Police Command as captured in Punch Newspaper state that her recent kidnapping from her home in Bayelsa to faraway Kano is a case of eloping. It’s almost laughable except that it’s not.

This is a grave issue that affects every one of us regardless of gender. It thus becomes obvious that law enforcement and the rest of the community have failed to catch on that the law does not condone the violation of any woman especially one who is still a child. Ese’s predicament is our predicament and as such statements made by the very institution put in place to install law and order demonstrates our failure as a society.

How on earth does a teenager elope? The fact that such a statement can be made by the police public relations rep confirm to us that child marriages are still very much a thing in this part of the world. This is a practice prevalent in the northern part of the country where matured men take on child brides.

At this point of the century where societies are moving to expel inhumane practices, the reaction to Ese’s case is a prime example of the normalcy of such a practice. Whether or not Ese voluntarily left her base in Bayelsa for a faraway state or was kidnapped / coerced into doing so as certain assertions have been made, the baseline is she is still a minor.

Although it has taken six whole months, the good news is Ese has been handed over to the police for her return to her family in Bayelsa. Just as author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been quoted as saying, ‘culture does not make people, people make culture’.

Thus, the mere fact that something is a part of our culture is not a good enough reason to uphold it. There is certainly good culture and bad culture and as humans we are expected to evolve and be progressive.

What are some of the risks?

There are several risks that child brides are faced with including emotional and psychological trauma that may follow them way into adulthood and in fact for the rest of their lives

In addition, if the ‘marriage’ had been consummated underage, pregnancy, Vesicovaginal Fistula and STIs are all common occurrences for child brides.

As a society, where do we go from here?

  • We need to close the gap between the law and its practice through proper information dissemination and sensitization. The Nigerian police force must undertake reorientation programs with the passing of new laws.
  • The law should expressly state the age of consent for sexual intercourse by getting rid of the compounding subsections in the Sexual Offences Bill.
  • It is also not enough that the law prescribe a penalty of 5 years imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 for the perpetrators in child marriages! A part of her life is taken away from her as she is forced to grow up in the worst ways possible. The maximum penalty should be sought for such offenders.

What can we do as women?

As women, each of us has a responsibility to uplift other women especially those who do not have some of the privileges we do have.

  • Speak up about it! Challenge the status quo! Tweet about it, blog about it, discuss with peers, make your voice heard. You may be surprised how little people actually think about this issue.
  • Educate yourselves including other young girls and women. Females need to be aware of the dangers they face and to take extra precaution where necessary.
  • Counsel and encourage one another. As women we need to quit slut shaming and blaming the victim. The guilty party is the aggressor or manipulator. Skimpy clothing or a flirtatious nature do not equal a license to rape.
  • Parents and guardians also need to be receptive enough for their daughters to feel free enough to tell them about any funny business going on.
  • Raise your sons to respect women. Men have as much a part to play as women do in the promotion of gender rights.