Congo Siasa

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.