Boniface: I am down, but not out
One of Kenya’s most renowned activists Boniface Mwangi has quit the streets in fear of his life.
Mr Mwangi, who rose to national fame when he heckled former President Mwai Kibaki in 2009, was accused of treason.
Security chiefs claimed last week he was among activists funded by the American USAID group to topple the Government. He denied the allegation.
“One of my mentors and fellow activists the Reverend Timothy Njoya told me that a lion sometimes surrenders its territory as a survival instinct to live to fight another day. I am taking a backseat because I don’t want to die,” said Mwangi.
Mr Mwangi said that the February 13 protest when the police made the claims was the last time Kenyans would see him take to the streets. His decision was also meant to protect his family and friends whom he claimed were now under government scrutiny.
“When activists Oscar Kingara and Paul Oulu were killed, the then government spokesman Alfred Mutua said that they should be taught a lesson accusing them of being members of the outlawed Mungiki sect. I don’t want to follow suit, especially now that I am being accused of treason,” he said.
Although Mr Mwangi has abandoned street activism, he maintained he would continue to fight for change in the country.
“Just because I am off the streets does not mean that I don’t care. People will always talk; when you are doing activism, they say you are being paid, when you stop they say you have made enough money. I am driven by my own values and principles,” he said.
In June 2011, he led protesters who carried 49 black coffins to Parliament while the House was in session. Each coffin, he said represented every year politicians had enjoyed impunity.
On the coffins was the message: “Bury the vulture with your vote.” Additionally, each coffin was labeled with a political scandal.
In January 2012, he organised 221 coffins to honor MPs’ requests for State burial. It was in response to their proposal to award themselves millions of shillings in a send-off deal. They torched the caskets to signify the end of one era and the birth of another.
In November the same year, he launched a controversial, hard-hitting website dubbed mavulture.com. The platform exposes the past wrongdoings of the country’s political leadership.
During last year’s Labour Day celebration, he found himself on the wrong side of the law when he was arrested for public disturbance. He had heckled Central Organisation of Trade Unions secretary general Francis Atwoli.
Mr Mwangi said he not only intended to spend more time with his family, but also to learn how to dance and swim.
He has three children with his wife Njeri; six-year-old Nate Simpiwe, two-year-old Naila Sifa and one-year-old Jabali Mboya.
He said he would continue to run his organisation Pawa 254 that is based on State House Road. It works in partnership with New York’s Open Society Institution.
“I want to put our art in the streets, make Nairobi County an art city. I am a professional photographer and I intend to continue with my photography,” he said.