Tanzanian popular rapper Ney wa Mitego (real name Emmanuel Elibariki) was released on 27 March 2017 without charges from police custody after he was held for nearly two days for his new song, ‘WAPO (They are There)’, which allegedly ridiculed the government.
Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Harrison Mwakyembe said Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered the rapper’s immediate release.
Mwakyembe said the president was happy with the song which speaks on a number of social and cultural challenges facing the Tanzanian community, questions alarming trends of the denial of human rights, especially freedom of expression, as well as issues around governance.
“The president has the song and he likes it. He advises not to remove a single word from it, but he can improve the song by adding more people to the lyrics, such as tax evaders, drug dealers, lazy Tanzanians etc., and the song can be more helpful in challenging such vices,” Mwakyembe said, quoting President Magufuli.
Prior to the minister’s press conference, the Tanzanian National Arts Council (BASATA) had already issued a statement to indefinitely ban the song as it runs contrary to ethics and laws.
According to Morogoro Regional Police Commander Urlich Matei, the rapper was arrested in the Morogoro region on 25 March and transported to Dar es Salaam.
News of the arrest went viral on social media after the rapper shared the following update on Instagram: “It is true, I am arrested in Morogoro town…I love all Tanzanians.” The arrest attracted widespread criticism from a wide range of Tanzanian politicians and activists
President Magufuli has been criticized since he assumed office at the end of 2015 for ruling with an iron had, infringing upon freedoms of expression, speech and assembly, and using the 2014 Cybercrimes Act to arrest and charge those who criticise him on social media.
Though his call for the rapper’s release may seem like a reversal of his actions, a week before this incident, Magufuli warned media owners over their coverage of one of his political allies, saying they should “be careful and watch it” as they don’t have that freedom “to that extent”.
Past problems over songs
This is the not the first time that the rapper’s songs, which often feature socio-political lyrics that target politicians and popular entertainers, have caused problems for him.
In July 2016, BASATA banned the rapper from participating in the music industry indefinitely due to “immoral content” in his song ‘Pale Kati Patamu’.
In 2013 he received death threats for his song ‘Salaam Zao’ (Greetings) in which he sends greetings to the president and entertainment heads to not participate in corruption.
‘WAPO (They are There)’ lyrics (partial translation from Kiswahili):
What you sow today you will harvest tomorrow,
it is written, ‘in sweat of his face, a man shall eat’
I am asking myself, has anyone seen tomorrow?
Hasten or if you slumber, you are done for/sunk.
Is freedom of speech still there in this country?
Lest I talk stuff here only to find myself into police custody.
A wise leader heeds to advice
Receives opinion and is not proud
Hey, am sorry honourable, do you know BASHITE?
This is a new boil from Kolomije,
It is ripe, very ready for lancing,
Here is the needle for you to use
The size of a wound never scares off a doctor,
You have proclaimed yourself a lancer of boils,
Go ahead and lance this one, don’t hesitate.
Article by Adam Gwankaja
» BBC – 28 March 2017
Tanzania rapper Nay wa Mitego freed after Magufuli criticism
» The Independent – 28 March 2017
Rapper Nay wa Mitego freed ater Magufuli advises him to ‘improve’ lyrics
» Africa News – 27 March 2017
Popular Tanzanian rapper arrested for ‘insulting’ President Magufuli
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» 10 August 2016: Tanzania: Rapper banned from music industry indefinitely
» 29 October 2013: Tanzania: Musician receives death threats for political song