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.
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.
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.