For many Kenyans, Boniface Mwangi has been at the forefront of fighting against impunity and agitating for the rights of the vulnerable in the community. He has been at the centre of many protests, highlighting issues that the government and political class needs to address.
Mwangi’s venture into social activism came after he quit working for a local newspaper, for which he had taken photos of the 2007 post-election violence. He had suffered post-traumatic stress and depression from the experience.
He started out with Picha Mtaani (street photography) project that took the photos of the 2007 post-election violence to different towns. The aim was to foster discussion on national healing and reconciliation. The result was the Heal the Nation documentary.
His efforts in social justice saw the establishment of the Ma-Vulture and Team Courage initiatives. The Ma-Vulture (many vultures) initiative aimed at collecting and condensing the impunity of the political class. It involved the use of graffiti to highlight the wrongdoings of politicians against the electorate. Team Courage is a project that celebrates Kenyan men and women who fought and died for what they believed in.
Mwangi also established PAWA254 a movement of and hub for socially conscious artists and activists aspiring for a better country.
In the 2017 August elections, Mwangi formed the Ukweli (truth) Party and ran for Member of Parliament for Starehe, a constituency in Nairobi. He conducted one of the most popular campaigns online and on the streets. He became one of the politicians to crowdsource the funds for his campaign.
While he did not get the seat, he conceded defeat, earning praise from his followers and supporters for conducting a peaceful and positive campaign.
In his fight for social justice, Mwangi has faced violence, mostly from the police. Last week, he was injured during a protest march against police brutality. He was hit at close range with a tear gas canister.
To further agitate for elections reform, Mwangi has declared he will not participate in the upcoming October 26 presidential elections.
“I shall not vote. I shall not vote in an election where innocent women and children have been brutalised by their own government. I shall not vote in an election where the executive attacks the judiciary with cheap insults while asking us to respect the same courts. I shall not vote in an election where our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties are gradually being taken away from us,” added Mwangi. “It is obvious that the Jubilee government is changing laws in order to legitimize what will be sham elections,” the activist said.
Mwangi’s efforts in advocating for social justice has seen him receive awards including CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the year, NYU/Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellows, Newseum Free Expression Award 2016, among others. He was named Time’s Next Generation Leaders in 2015 and Quartz Africa 2015.
In 2016, he published Unbounded, a memoir that chronicles his life and the people and places that influenced him.