NAIROBI (IDN | GIN) – A well-known soukous star from the Congo got a quick lesson in the evolving status of Kenyan women when he was detained and summarily deported, his performance scuttled, after he was caught striking a woman with his foot on a bystander’s cell phone camera.
In the grainy video image posted online, Koffi Olomide, age 60, his musicians and dancers are seen arriving at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Without warning, he pivots to one of his dancers and aims a vicious kick at her midsection.
Band members said he overreacted after being informed that the unidentified dancer had slapped his purported girlfriend.
A court case over his alleged harassment of dancers has prevented him from staging shows in Europe.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet ordered the star’s detention after the National Gender and Equality Commission demanded the arrest of the Lingala star over the action caught on camera.
"The incident has caused an outpouring of public outrage over the apparent cruelty and inhuman treatment exhibited by a globally renowned musician on one of his band members,” said Commission chair Winfred Lichuma.
Youth and Gender Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the singer should be deported and his visa permanently revoked.
"His conduct was an insult to Kenyans and our constitution," she said. "Violence against women and girls cannot be accepted in any shape, form or manner. It is a blatant violation of their human rights."
The reaction among Kenyans, however, ranged from indignant to annoyed, as described by Yvonne Okwara of Kenya’s Standard Digital news wire.
“Some have said that Koffi was merely defending his woman’s honor. Others say that the act of violence against a woman was unacceptable. Some of us have been ambivalent, wondering what the fuss was all about. After all is he not one of the greatest musicians of our time?
“Here's the thing,” she said. “Violence is wrong. Period. Men beating men, men beating women, women beating men or even women beating women. Violence is wrong. It is illegal. Criminal.”
“Has impunity become so entrenched in Kenya that we now get surprised when wrongdoing is punished?” she asked. “Koffi Olomide broke the law, he was punished for it.”
Punished for wrongdoing was not how Olomide’s lawyer saw it, however. The musician and his band “were treated like animals,” he charged, and the star was deported without even his passport.
“The man was crucified by the social media and the politicians, who judged him harshly,” said the attorney, Prof George Wajackoyah. The scheduled show at Las Bomas was cancelled and a subsequent concert in Zambia has been called off.
The Agriculture and Commercial Society of Zambia said the "disappointing" incident was behind its decision. Olomide initially denied the assault, but has later claimed it happened “in a moment of madness.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 July 2016]
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Photo: Congolese musician Koffi Olomide (centre) with his handlers in Nairobi moments after the incident at JKIA. Credit: Nairobi News Correspondent