It is despots and dictators that hate political cartoonists
Political satirists, the best among them, make us laugh, cry and think about current affairs. Gado, the best in the region, was fired by people who are not just impervious to satire but that also frown upon free, transformative and provocative speech audience a unique perspective on leadership. For his genius, he was called “Africa’s most important cartoonist. His page describes him as the “most syndicated political cartoonist in Eastern and Central Africa”.
The love newspaper readers lavished on him was proportional to the hatred those in authority had for the Tanzanianborn graphic humourist. President Kenyatta clearly never liked the man. Even before he became president, he tried to sue Gado over a cartoon pillorying him for the Sh100 billion “accounting error” that was reported in the 2009 budget, when the president was Finance minister.
Talk in media circles has it that it was President Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto that put pressure on the paper’s management to fire the cartoonist. His formal sacking came soon after the paper fired one of its key editors, Denis Galava, in what media watchers see as a dangerous trend for media freedoms in Kenya.
That the cartoonist provoked the ire of the mighty is testimony to the power of poking fun. While a reporter might pen a hair-rising article and sub editor conceive a punchy headline, the cartoonist’s sarcastic pen is often more potent, but often undervalued.
While readers soon forget the headlines, the cartoons are kept and sometimes framed, in the process preserving the art, humour and the political message contained therein.
Because of their subtle power and their timelessness, authorities often fear them and in times of conflict or national stress,
One of the illustrations done by Gado for the ‘Nation’.