In Summary
  • They claim that he is simply in activism for foreign donors’ money.
  • But who isn’t into some project or another in this country for some money from abroad, one would ask?

Boniface Mwangi, to use a Kenyan media cliché, is a man liked and hated in equal measure. His friends swear that he is the new revolutionary in town.

They believe that he can take on anyone in this wretched country and will soon inspire an uprising that will send home the old guard who simply refuse to go tell stories to their grandchildren, and welcome a new generation of progressive young Kenyans to lift this country to greater heights of development.

His detractors think that he is simply a noisy character, hungry for publicity and hungry in the stomach.

They claim that he is simply in activism for foreign donors’ money. But who isn’t into some project or another in this country for some money from abroad, one would ask?

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

Whatever the cynics say, there is one incontestable fact. And that is that for some time now, Boniface Mwangi has stood for an alternative energy to the usual politics of the ruling elite.

He has been publicly noisy but with a reason. Boniface has not shied away from taking on the mighty among Kenyan politicians.

He hasn’t been scared to challenge even the President or his deputy. He has confronted them online and offline.

But whenever he has sought to speak truth to power — a much abused cliché — he has sought so not just on behalf of himself and his immediate family. Public support for his protests show that he is on mwananchi’s side.

There is no doubting that it has been on behalf of a larger good.

Of course such bravery in a time when self-preservation means that the old leftists or the old soldiers of opposition have been bought, caved in or simply given up the spirit to fight injustice and oppression, always raises the question: is he foolish or is he ‘protected’ by someone? Indeed it is foolish to take on a regime that is known for strong arm tactics.

His grandmother, Wangechi, may have advised him, as he writes in his memoir Unbounded (2016), that brave soldiers die on the battlefield for their convictions whilst cowards go home to their mothers, activism, especially the kind that seeks to hold the state accountable has a very high cost in a country like Kenya.

MORE PRODUCTIVE QUESTION

However, probably a more productive question should be: what motivates Boni? What makes him defiant, questioning, ever-present on the streets, demanding on social media but still smiling at the end of the day? The obvious answer is that there is some spirit that animates him. The energy that he evinces has a history behind it, one that he tells in Unbounded. It goes back to the colonial times, flowing from his grandparents through his defiant mother into him. The roots of his courage are traceable to his grandparents who endured the repression and dispossession of the colonial regime and survived it.

But probably it is his mother, Emmah Wakiuru, who bequeathed him the steadfast spirit, the restless soul and the agile body that defines much of his three and a half decades of life. Wakiuru got her first child in 1969 when she was still in school.

Boniface notes in his memoir that despite passing her exams, the pregnancy must have crushed her soul.

Consequently she abandoned the child with her parents and migrated to Nairobi to seek another life after the child’s father deserted her.

She would end up hawking in Nairobi, doing business between Kenya and Tanzania and had other children, Boniface being born on July 10, 1983 at Taita Taveta District Hospital.

RESTLESS

Thus, Boniface began life in the expansive and serene countryside of sisal growing land of the Taita. But it would not last long as his mother moved back to Nairobi and settled in Ngara.

The restlessness of the city would infect Boniface as he would become a malingerer, as many children of such age tend to be, especially when there is no firm parental hand at home.

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