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OLAMBO: Kenya Has A Lot to Offer Than Poverty, Sick of Insincere Celebrities and Pseudo Humanitarians



Singer-songwriter Madonna Ciccone (L) poses for a photograph with Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta as she receives a "Beyond Zero" campaign technical report at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Singer Madonna Ciccone (L) poses for a photograph with Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta as she receives a “Beyond Zero” campaign technical report at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016

By Nickolas Olambo

Western media has always painted Africa as a battlefield, weak, corrupt, backwards and leaving so many people unaware that the nations in Africa have functioning governments, with modernised cities, schools, hospitals, normality, thriving businesses, intelligent and capable human beings. Rwanda, for example, has been reported as war tonne when it’s one of the top growing economies in Africa.

They report only negative stories which in fact are even in their home countries just to provide their celebrities with a cause to make more money despite their careers hitting ‘menopause’. It’s senseless to reduce Africa to a mere notion of good versus evil and create a suggestion that only outsiders carry the key to solutions.

Who benefits from these celebrity activists? One may ask and it’s clear these fame beings hire expensive PR experts to sell their convictions as Daniel Drezner would tell you in “When foreign policy goes glam”, engaging in humanitarian causes clearly benefits the Clooneys, Jolie’s and Damons of the world. It provides them with access to new outlets – political talk shows or international forums – and helps polish their personal brands.


Madonna, for instance, was in Kenya, Kibera slums over the weekend reportedly to see how she could improve the lives of the residents. She is also said to have been reduced to tears when she heard a man narrate how his five-year-old daughter was raped by the neighbour. Everybody knows Madonna has championed projects in Malawi to adopt babies in the end but similar PR stunts by Western celebrities such as crying, Salma Hayek breastfeeding a baby in Sierra Leone and Angelina Jolie travelling to Iraq is annoying.

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These are lame PR stunts people are used to. In 2013 members of British Pop Group, One Direction was filmed with toddlers at a hospital in Ghana, the aim of such a clip is to encourage people to donate. And true to the stereotypes before it was aired, UK papers had released images of the group in tears sitting next to sick African kids. Africa is tired of these pictures, but celebrities don’t seem to realise.

Their PR experts are doing a good job, and they have realised that Kenya is a place to be, take photos and beg for mercy. This works well because the current regime is that which enjoys taking ‘selfies’ then count and smile about the many likes they get on social media. The over glorified ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ by the first lady Margret Kenyatta is a great initiative, and no one can deny that.


madonna-visits-kenya-4Madonna should instead identify something else to tackle not expressing her ‘willingness’ to partner with Beyond Zero Initiative to redeem her diminishing fame and image.

This celebrity adopter is full of controversies not good for Beyond Zero. It has been alleged that the children she adopted from Malawi are not orphans, sidestepping the right procedure to complete the adoption process and using her status and wealth on authorities.

Not long ago she also caused controversy when she posted a picture of her ‘white son’ Rocco and captioned it with the N word. She did that despite having two adopted black children. Apologies or no apologies, that was reckless and casting doubts if she will add any value to ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’.

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There are so many good projects that in fact can’t meet their goals due to insufficient funding. Beyond Zero is not one of them so what would Madonna be there for? In fact, her pledge to work with the First Lady’s initiative comes only a few days after Melinda Gates, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation expressed similar interest to partner with the Beyond Zero initiative, to ensure access to quality health for Kenyan women and children.

To quote Journalist Andrew Mwenda ‘all too often, these campaigns are not about the welfare of the people they claim to be helping but act as a platform for celebrities to promote their brand to their audiences at home by exhibiting their humanity’. Madonna’s ‘Beyond Zero campaign photos’ are all over social media when she also visited Maasai Mara, why not post those pictures too for the world to see?

Most Western celebrities travel to Africa with twisted schemes other than what they publicly drive. Some are genuine in their courses but majority insincere. They rush to give ‘aid’ to ‘dying’ Africa to gain humanitarianism points and for their fans to see them as saviours or sort of. It’s all about improving their ratings and getting new Hollywood characters or awards and shoot up their sales.

Now thanks to Madonna half of the world now have a rough idea of how Kenya looks like, dirty with open running sewage. All these because of the selective pictures she flooded on her social media pages of Kibera slums, a micro fraction of Kenya to billions of her fans all over the world.

Akon with president Uhuru when he paid him a visit at Statehouse

Akon with president Uhuru when he paid him a visit at Statehouse

Another celebrity whose project can only be heard in Kenya but not seen is Akon. The singer has turned into ‘a state house rat’; you can bump into him anywhere within the premises any day. His Akon Lighting Africa Project has nothing to show in the region when he is busy taking selfies with the head of state just to appear to be doing something yet he failed to turn up for shows when he was in his prime citing fake tickets and rogue promoters as his reasons. Africa has work to do, and its position should not be used to seek sympathy.

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There’re more beauty and natural resources that Kenya holds than dirty pictures from Kibera, and we don’t disown that Slum is an issue, even New York, World’s top city is faced with this menace. If you’re genuine in highlighting African accounts, give the world a 3D view, don’t show the shadow and keep off the light side. Kenya or Africa is not and shouldn’t be a space for career flopping celebrities to rush in to salvage their dwindling ratings. Africa has more to offer than Poverty stricken pictures.


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Kenya West is a trained investigative independent journalist and a socio-political commentator on matters Kenya and Africa. Do you have a story, Scandal you want me to write on? Send me tips to [[email protected]]


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