July 22nd started out as a happy, sunny morning in Nairobi. The “All Sold Out” concert was all set to rock the house in a few hours. Koffi Olomide, his dynamite band and a stunning entourage of dancers had just touched down in Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Excited fans, cell phone cameras in hand, watched and chattered as the flamboyant superstar emerged, a crowd of idolizing fans and media started to swell around the popular hit maker.
But wooo! Everyone was stunned as they watched Olomide pace towards one of his female dancers and furiously kick her as though air mailing a soccer ball. Of course there were pictures. Of course someone caught it on video with a cell phone camera. Of course the video found its way onto social media — and went viral.
In the evening, Olomide appeared on Citizen TV for an interview in which he tried to twist the story. He told a fictitious tale about how he rescued his dancers from “pickpockets” who were harassing them. However, this was not what the video captured. This angered Kenyans a great deal and they took social media by storm. A hash tag to deport the new Bruce Lee in town was all over social websites. This prompted the government of Kenya to take swift action. They arrested and deported the Congolese hit maker, who is now loved and hated by many with equal zeal.
I really want to praise the power of social media and collective action, in his home country – Democratic Republic of Congo. People made noise through social media which forced the government arrest him, arraign him in court and jailed Koffi for three months. He later appealed and was granted bail, but he still has an assault case on him.
The power of social media shaped the prognosis of this story; one could easily tell what would happen next because the police and government official were in check. It was not easy to take a bribe here, there was no room to treat Koffi as a ‘god’, and social media pushed the law to take its cause. I still can’t get over how it all seemed to zoom right by — no pause, no build-up, no bureaucratic obstacles, and no cover ups. It reminded me of an old childrens’ story, where the hero was born on Monday, named on Tuesday, married on Wednesday, got sick on Thursday, treated on Friday, died Saturday and was buried on Sunday.
That swift kick from a rock star left me kicking with an outrage that just keeps on resonating. Who is this clown? Where does he get off putting his foot on a helpless working woman? How do we shut down that kind of arrogance? Whatever you don’t like about social media, there’s nothing like it when you want to get the word out. That’s what we need to keep doing when it comes to gender violence: Get the word out. Don’t just sit there dumbfounded: Use Your Words! Say Something! And together let us end gender based violence!!