It is despots and dic­ta­tors that hate po­lit­i­cal car­toon­ists

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Society -

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’.

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