Gambia: Rapper forced to flee after song criticising president goes viral

22 July 2015


A few days after Gambian rapper Killa Ace (real name: Ali Cham) released a song critical of the Gambian regime, he started receiving threats that lead him to flee the country. In the song, entitled ‘Ku Boka C Geta G’, Killa Ace speaks against social injustices, oppression, corruption and lack of freedom of expression under the regime of President Yahya Jammeh.

COPENHAGEN 22 JULY 2015 | The song released on 23 June 2015 quickly received more than 30,000 plays on online audio platform Soundcloud. Killa Ace and people close to him started receiving phone calls from private phone numbers. According to Killa Ace the callers made life threatening statements and asked about the rapper’s whereabouts. Fearing for his safety, he decided to leave the country with his wife and child.

Killa Ace’s radio show on Africell Radio, based in Gambia’s capital Banjul, has subsequently been taken off air. The radio show, sponsored by telecom company, Africell, was created to promote hip-hop in Gambia. But his new song commenting on Jammeh’s government led the station’s management to pull Killa Ace’s show and songs from the radio, according to Gambia’s Freedom Newspaper. Killa Ace was quoted as saying he could neither confirm nor deny the story as he has not received any official communication from Africell. Africell Gambia did not respond to Freemuse’s request for a comment.

Call on Gambian government
“No artist should be forced to flee his country simply for publishing a critical song,” said Freemuse Senior Programme Officer Magnus Ag. “Instead of passing laws that limit freedom of expression, the Gambian government needs to secure that artists can express themselves freely and that Killa Ace can return home safely.”

Limiting factors
President Yahya Jammeh has ruled The Gambia since seizing power in 1994. His leadership has been marred by controversy and accusations of human rights violations, which include enforced disappearances, torture and muzzling of the press, according to international human rights organisations.

Threats are by fare not the only factor limiting freedom of expression in the country that just marked 50 years since gaining independence from Britain. In 2013, the National Assembly passed the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act, allowing for penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and hefty fines for offences including: criticising government officials online; spreading “false news” about the government or public officials; making derogatory statements against public officials; and inciting dissatisfaction or instigating violence against the government, according to Amnesty International.

Killa Ace was clearly aware of the controversy the song might create. In the final line of the song he raps:

“And if you don’t hear from me after this
you all know where I’m at and what is going on.”

Killa Ace is currently in Dakar with his family where he told Freemuse he plans to stay for as long as possible or until he finds the environment in The Gambia safe enough to return.

“I have always been motivated to speak on the different issues that impact my community, as well as other communities all over Africa. But for a long time, I have felt guilty for not speaking up about the daily injustices against Gambians by the government. So in ‘Ku Boka C Geta G’, I simply speak my truth through my art,” Killa Ace told Freemuse via email.

“I want to continue being the voice of the Gambians whose sufferings inspired me to speak out,” he said.

In this Senegalese Rap News – eighth episode of Journal Rappé’s third season, posted on youtube on 3 July 2015 and viewed 50,000 times in the first two weeks – Killa Ace joins the programme at 1:53, saying “We live in fear. As soon as you cross the border, you feel it in the air.”


» Enquete+ – 14 July 2015:
Le fusilleur de Jammeh

» Music in Africa – 10 July 2015:
Viral song gets Gambian rapper fired

» Freedom Newspaper – 8 July 2015:
Africell fires rapper Killa Ace after recording a viral rap hit song against Jammeh
Ace’s songs banned in all radio stations in the Gambia

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