Côte Ivorian reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly and his band were denied entry in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they were due to perform at the Jazz Kif Festival on Sunday 21 June 2015.
According to Reuters, a spokesman of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced on 20 June 2015 that Fakoly and his band had been denied entry by immigration authorities at Kinshasa’s N’djili Airport on 19 June 2015, allegedly for having applied for tourist visas, when in reality they had come for a professional activity. The spokesman said the authorities had no political motive for their decision.
Reggaeville and Afri-culture reported a very different story: that the musicians all had their visas from the Congolese embassy in Paris, that the purpose of the journey had been declared, and that everything had been well in order. 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.
Arriving at Kinshasa’s N’djili Airport, the congolese immigration officers told the musicians that 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 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? How can you be scared of music? We don’t kill nobody. Why would you be scared if what you’re doing is good?”
They had been shipped back like dogs to Belgium, he said, adding that he had never been treated like this in his entire life.
Tiken Jah Fakoly 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 15 February 2014, 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.
Freemuse Award winner Tiken Jah Fakoly is an outspoken critic of corruption and authoritarianism in African politics. According to a source known to the editor of Reggaeville, 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.
» Afri-culture – 21 June 2015:
Ivorian Reggae Star Tiken Jah Fakoly Denied Entry in DR Congo