DRC Government Denied Entry to Tiken Jah Fakoly
06/21/2015 by Valentin Zill
Reggae music is music with a message every time, the great Lucky Dube once reminded us. And to some, this message can feel threatening. While we’re used to missing reggae music playing on mainstream radio and TV stations in most parts of the world, the days in which reggae music gets some real fights from governments and police officers are mostly over.
Not so in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the evening of June 19th, Tiken Jah Fakoly and his crew touched down at the N’Djili International Airport in Kinshasa. They were scheduled to perform at the Jazz Kif 2015 festival this Sunday. Tiken Jah and his entire crew were denied entry into DRC by immigration officers who told them their visas were “bad”. Their passports were confiscated and the entire crew detained for more than three hours, while they were refused drinks, before they were transported in a locked bus back to the Brussels Airlines plane they had come with. Tiken Jah and his band were forced to fly back directly to Bruxelles in that same plane, and their passports were handed over to the aircraft captain.
Back at Brussels Airport, they were picked up by Belgian immigration officers, detained again and interrogated in impertinent and degrading ways before they were finally handed out their passports and set free to continue to travel back to Paris.
In an exclusive interview with Reggaeville, a still devastated Ras Jumbo, Tiken Jah’s longtime bassist, recounted this incident only hours after he had been released in Bruxelles. “I just felt like crying when I arrived home in Paris. Not for me, but for Africa. When are we going to be free to say what we think?” They had been shipped back like dogs to Belgium, he said, adding that he had never been treated like this in his entire life. “How can you be scared of music? We don’t kill nobody.” Jumbo told Reggaeville that they all had their visas from the Congolese embassy in Paris and that everything had been well in order. “The visas were cancelled in Kinshasa.” He added that the manager who picked up the passports at the embassy had been told right there that Tiken was not allowed to sing songs like Quitte Le Pouvoir (“Step down from power”) in Kinshasa. “Why would you be scared if what you’re doing is good?” Many people in DRC fear that current president Joseph Kabila will unconstitutionally run for another term in November 2016.
According to Agence France Presse, Congolese authorities refused to comment on the incident. Tiken Jah was not available for a personal statement, but he posted a comment on his Facebook page, saying that music didn’t need a passport to travel and that he would continue to fight together with the people of DRC. “Like in Goma on the last 15th of February, I wanted to dance with you, contribute to peace, talk about love with you. But in the end, our tears where flowing, for they didn’t want to let us enter.”
For Tiken Jah Fakoly, it is not the first time to be banned from entering a country as a persona non grata. In 2007, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade forbid him to enter the country after Tiken had stated in public that Wade should keep his son out of politics if he didn’t want to put the country in danger. Tiken Jah Fakoly speaks his mind instead of accepting bribes from politicians. According to a source known to the editor, in the bus back to the plane to Bruxelles he stated that he would have sung Quitte Le Pouvoir anyway–to no one’s surprise. This incident is a stark reminder that people who fight for progress are always at risk, in Congo and in Belgium, in Africa, Europe, and elsewhere. It is all the more important to keep up the fight.
PHOTOS TAKEN BY KANDIA KORA