Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Strange Kind of Rebellion

The Congolese diaspora is well-known for its rambunctious demonstrations and protests, usually against President Kabila, whom they often accuse of mass murder and being a Rwandan stooge. Over the past two months, however, protests in Belgium and France have focused on Congolese musicians. Concerts of Werrason, Papa Wemba and Fally Ipupa were targeted, resulting in two cancellations. The protesters accuse the musicians of supporting the government, although in some of the video footage from the demonstrations (not more than 50-300 people usually) the protesters appear to be more outraged by the cost of the tickets (around 100 euros).

Most Congolese musicians make money off "mabanga," shout-outs they give to people who pay for their names to be sung by popular singers. Often these mabanga are dedicated to politicians, many of whom are in Kabila's government. Werrason in particular has been known to be a supporter of Kabila. For the others, however, it is less clear - Fally, perhaps the biggest rising star, has sung the praises of Vital Kamerhe (although when he was still allied to Kabila), and Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide have openly denounced the government's corruption.

Personally, I can't help for being sympathetic towards the young lady in this clip, who berates the demonstrators in front of Werrason's concert in Brussels (which had to be canceled because of the protests) for protesting against these musicians while Egyptians give their lives fighting for democracy.

On the other hand, the Congo's musicians do seem to be particularly lacking in moral character. Where Nigeria had Fela, Cote d'Ivoire Tiken Jah Fakoly and Kenya Eric Wainaina - Congo has Koffi? When the presenter criticizes Koffi's lack of social responsibility, he just answers: "I am a musician."

We'll keep you updated on how the various musicians weigh in on the elections.


Rich said...

Hey Jason,

Good to see you back on the blog.

It is a sad pity to see what is going on within the Congolese diaspora especially those I call (the loud minority of the Congolese diaspora).
I have been following the political activism within the Congolese diaspora for a few years now and I can say that its recent development is quite interesting.

Cut a long story short, to me the political activism within the Congolese diaspora is motivated by a desperate need to validate the claim that if returned to Congo an individual is more likely to be persecuted by the authorities there.

As you know, under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees from 1951, a refugee is, “a person who (according to the formal definition in article 1A of this Convention), owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a ...”

Using the case of the UK, I can tell you for fact that this political activism is mainly fuelled by the fact that many Congolese Asylum Seekers and Failed Asylum Seekers were convinced to enter some form of political activism if they want to stand a chance of having their Asylum claim accepted as successful by the UK Home Office.

For this reason, many Congolese started to engage in political activism and do whatever it takes to be noticed by the British authorities so that if ever their Asylum claim fails they can produce their images when protesting against J Kabila’s regime and claim that if sent back to Congo they are likely to be persecuted.

We all know that most of these people have never done any politic when they were in Congo and that they are in Europe after overstaying a training visa, a student visa, a conference visa; some are in Europe after obtaining visas as members of Congolese music bands like Quartier Latin, Wenge Musica, Zaiko Langalanga through what is known in Congolese milieu as (phenomene ba Ngulu) etc…

To me, most of them are economic migrants who want to justify their presence in their host countries by doing whatever it takes to tarnish the reputation of those running their home country.

There is a vicious and cynical propaganda that seems to nurture the egos of many and aimed at fostering discredit onto others.

My main objection is that their project seems to be centered on individuals rather than ideologies. Their discourse and methods have got all the trappings of fascism (anti rwanda) and should never be given a public platform. Furthermore, they take too much liberty with the truth.

Many of them are basing their assessment of the situation In Congo from DVD and other publications authored by Honore Ngbanda (who uses that as his main source of income) without even questioning the premises of his key allegations or his past as a senior member of government.

You can check these links for some background on how political hate has been develop among the loud minority part of the Congolese diaspora.

kristina (Wedding Disc Jockey Entertainment) said...

Surely a rebellion could only happen when there are conflicts between parties. The new trying to outwit the former.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again!!!
That Daily Mail reader is on it again. The HO spy can only spit lies and misunderstandings but very true is, those scumbags have fall on line or starve like the rest of people. It is inacceptable to have in one hand all those raped women and in other hand those empties(sic) songs with naked dancing girls, enough is enough. With them, pasteurs du sommeil and so diaspora leaders in that government.

The hunger of the Congolese diaspora cannot be understanded and I cannot agree more with you. Nobody is expecting congolese to see the world through their own eyes, to say things with their own words and to express themself on their own way.It's not any...ism of any kind, but just normal for some people. But we say bolinga bolinga te, bokopola!

Anonymous said...

I am happy to have found this blog. I am seeking a guest speaker who can present before our small bar association who has expertise in DRC issues. Sex Crimes in Military would be a good topic. Do you know someone in the DC area who could do this? Prefer down to earth types who have been close to the ground, no professional speakers. contact

Richard Mwamba said...

what Rich has written is totally insane and outrageous. I can feel your anger, your hate for congolese people and your fear for the upcoming uprise of the congolese people who are determined to stop and dismantle any form of neo-colonialism, the western oppression, their interference in our politics, to always find puppets whom they can continue to impose on sovereign people. Tunisia was a starting point, and it will go down to the black-Africa. Stop your insanity and wait for the truth to emerge and the freedom to obtain by the congolese people after more 200 years of oppression. Refugees are everywhere, we have in canada many american refugees, and they are actively involved in what is happening south of the border. We saw them throwing eggs when George Bush came to Canada to protest against the war in Irak and the lies of the republicans. Reading you I can detect the voice of a republican lobbist, I hate them, I hate the conservetism. We have professors, engeneers, doctors and all kinds of congolese people around the globe. Most of those who protest are not assylum seekers, they are professionals. If one has no paper he can marry a local, have children, find job and get a green card. You don't need to be noticed in public to receive green card. You want to applaud when we protest for injustice, and as spy as you are, to inform the silly Kabila Government to torture and persecute members of our families back home, and you call yourself civilized and you side with Kabila to claim there is democracy in the Congo! Is there any pleasure to watch horrible pictures of raped women and girls, unlwaful imprisonments, terrorist government and you want us to shut our mouth! We are upset with the way Kabila is running the country and all those who praise him are traitors of the Nation and deserve punishment, these include Werrason and company. There could be one or two protesting now but time is coming when we shall all descend to Congo for mass revolution!

Anonymous said...

Brother Mwamba, I felt the same way toward Rich allegations. I find it hard to understand that Rich does not realize that most of the mid-age congolese in Europe and America have acquired a second citizenship. So why anybody can think that people are protesting because they just want to creat a valide alibi to get papers. Armand who was killed cowardly in Kinshasa was a belgian citizen. I think it is very dangerous to not recognize the validity of what is going on. Because it will not end there... it just started!

Fadhilah MPA said...

nice blog. visit & follow me back

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Koffi Olomide "seem to be particularly lacking in moral character", and yet you have put a quote from one of his songs so prominently on top of your blog.

Also, you seem to imply that Olomide is the greatest musician the Congo has ever produced ("Congo has Koffi?")! He is not even the most popular! You either have not heard of Luambo Makiadi (and others), or willingly omitted to mention him to make your point. Or maybe you are confusing Olomide's (past) popularity with greateness (Luambo).

Colored Opinions said...

Both Tshisekedi's UDPS European representatives and former presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba focused on Kabila's alleged Rwandan roots. I agree that it has not been a very effective strategy sofar, succesfully allienating potential western allies. However, in the context of confirmed facts (or does Rich deny those too?) contained in the mapping report the anti-Rwandan sentiment is quite understandable. This has absolutely nothing to do with the way Congolese obtained their papers in European member-states.

Jason Stearns said...

@ Anonymous: I admire Koffi as a musician. At times (Affaire d'Etat) he has even begun to dwell on politics, and some of his sayings - like the one I quote on my blog - are often used by Congolese and are very relevant to the politics I talk about. But often, he and other musicians seem to be completely oblivious to the conflict in the country and the suffering of their people, at times even getting involved irresponsibly in politics.

Of course I know and admire Franco, he was indeed probably the greatest musician to have come out of the Congo (although he has a lot of competition for that title). But first of all, he is dead and his era is past. Secondly, while Franco commented eloquently on social life in Zaire, he was also at times at the service of Mobutu, singing the famous "Candidat Na Biso" for his election campaign.

Rich said...

Wow Jason!
Showing some convincing grasp of Congolese’s musical realm.

Anyways, I will never say this enough. Every society deserves its leaders. Musician such as Koffi, Wemba, Franco, Fally, Wazekwa, Mpiana, Tshala Mwana, Werra etc. are artists and their main job is to paint a picture of the society where they are called to live. This image can be an exaggeration or a carbon copy what matters is that they are simply conveying their interpretation of certain realities in their society through art.

Change the society and the artist will paint and reflect the image of a changed society.

I think it is at best childish and at worst irresponsible to blame Congolese musicians for doing their job. Congolese musicians do not suffer less than the average Congolese from the unscrupulous management of the political scene in the country.

We all know that despite their apparent, if not 'fake', luxurious lives, Congolese musicians too are victims of politics also very poor when you compare their talent or artistic credentials and what they earn in real terms at the end of their career or lives.

I am intrigued as to where this is all going to end? Congolese football players? Students who are lucky enough to qualify for international bursaries schemes through government’s partnerships?...

The irony is that most of the protesters listen and dance frenetically to the same music when they are not busy protesting in order to get refugee status! The same music is now filled with names of the same MIKILISTES instead of lyrics. Where is consistency?

I think our friends from the loud minority within the Congolese diaspora are simply barking up the wrong tree.

I doubt J Kabila will ever get sleepless nights because Fally or Werrason were prevented from performing in Europe. What a waste of energy?

Anonymous said...

no no no we don't want rwandans in drcongo please...
lobbyists can have the minerals if they want to but not infrom a bloody hands like kagame!

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