Uwaga Music Video Launch
Sio Hivyo Uwaga
By Marie Ramtu for Missing Voices
The Uwaga album launch is subsequent to The Missing Voices Coalition (MVC) launch of a 60-page report titled “Delayed Justice,” documenting Police Killings and Enforced Disappearance (ED) in Kenya. The Wednesday, 08 June, 2022 sunny afternoon at the Kenya National Theatre (KNT) being peculiar for a usually chilly Nairobi June climate, climate change perhaps. What strikes you as you enter KNT is the photo exhibition that is an accurate indication of the gathering today. Nothing prepares you enough for what’s to occur inside the auditorium.
The Opening Act
The MC of the day is Javan the Poet, who hosts the audience through the activities outlined. In between punctuating with messages that awakens the conscious to the reality that is police brutality. A significant part of the audience have been directly or indirectly suffered brutality under the police. Some have lost their sons, brothers, friends, neighbors, someone they know or have heard about to the menace that is police killing. Many are drawn from the peri-urban communities.
The opening act by the Social Justice Travelling Theatre Skit depicts how the life is cut short of a lad who just returned from studies abroad, oblivious of the reality that now faces his community. The fear that his mother had that he will follow the same fate as his peers comes to pass. Two bullets to his head from rogue police.
Story Telling As Resilience
“Even though I have learnt to live with the experience, it shouldn’t have happened”, Ramsizzo lamented, his facial experience thoughtful as he journey’s back to his nightmare. Male, dreadlocked and from the “ghetto” are his crime. Ramsizzo was a victim of wrongful arrest. Trumped up charges saw him serve a month in inda, industrial prison. I remember Mekatilili Wa Menza, Field Marshal Muthoni, the Mau Mau fighters, all other dreadlocked liberators of Kenya and their ordeal under oppressors. There’s need to decolonize the police force.
Shiki’s experience served as a reminder of the 2017 post-election. Timely. Also, a reminder that females and children are not spared police abuse. There is more susceptibility if you are from a community that is criminalized. Her account portrayed infringement of other related rights such as the right to freely protest, right to work and it also brought out the bias from the media fraternity in reporting. The psychological scars that are left after the ordeal. “It is painful. Worse, is knowing that there’s no one to back you up”. The audience hangs on every word.
Voices of Mothers
Sitanyamaza. Nitatetea vijana. Awe mzuri au mbaya. Kwani jela ni za nini? Hata kama na smile roho zetu zinaumia. One day, Mungu atatutusaidia na tutapata justice.
I no longer cry. I have used my pain to speak up. If I remain silent, everyone will remain silent. I believe one day justice will be served.
The two represented voices of other mothers who have lost their sons to police killings.
Javan turns to the audience for reactions. The first speaker begins with a narration of how police are now utilizing unmarked cars for patrols. There’s fear in reporting police abuses because of threats received or unlawful detention. He finishes by highlighting how the rogue police and politicians are collaborating to execute the youth.
What follows is a narration of how police carried out massive evictions in Mukuru, a peri-urban community, using excessive force. Five people were shot including 2 minors who still are nursing fatal injuries. Remedy for all affected is still a mirage. The evacuated live in make shift tents.
The moment you know you can live, then you cannot die. Words to keep the fight for justice alive from another speaker.
Lastly, a narration of an ordeal during the 2017 election violence, where the police ransacked their home on allegation of hiding ballot papers in Kisumu. Then, 2022 in Nairobi. Kuja hapa unakaa Rwandese. Come here you look Rwandese. He had to speak dholou as proof of citizenship for the police to let him go. I recollect Operation Usalama Watch. Refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants are not immune. Xenophobia. Made me wonder if the unclaimed Garissa and River Yala bodies could possibly have been foreigners.
Sitachange kwasababu watu wanataka ni change but sisi wote tunataka change. He finishes.
Daisy Chege, lawyer, spoke of how intellectual property rights empower artivists by encouraging creativity, sparking conversations and drawing economic benefits from their work.
Salima Macharia, counselling psychologist, highlighted the impact of C-19 pandemic on artivists. She called for resource allocation for mental health wellbeing, community based approaches and healthy coping behaviors.
ARTivism and Social Media
The day’s proceedings were punctuated with hair raising performances from Anthem Republiq, Muguruness, Flawless Konya and Abudabi Tembekali. These four were backed by the Dhamani Band and are featured in the Uwaga music video with Juliani. The launch was also streamed live on the Missing Voices Youtube channel. Subscribe. Online conversation also happened on the Twitter handle. Follow. #Uwaga #irresistablevoices
Javan calls to the stage all the Missing Voices Directors present in the auditorium to be joined by the four artivists for the moment all have been waiting for. The song’s hook “Si Hivo Uwaga” (it should never be like that) paints a picture of how corruption, police killings, and arbitrary arrests have been normalized, particularly among people living in urban informal settlements.
Marie Ramtu is a member of the Missing Voices Coalition and a Gender, Security and Human Rights Lobbyist.