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Hip-hop and youth movements cause anxiety

Africa has a growing youth population who are increasingly frustrated with economic failures and restrictive environments. Music culture – particularly hip-hop – is reflecting this and engaging with more political content, with Bobi Wine in Uganda, Falz in Nigeria, Sauti Sol in Kenya, Didier Lalaye in Chad, and Pilato in Zambia.[1]

The rise of political lyrics is being met with a rise in anxiety and censorship across the continent.[2] In Uganda in August, security officials prevented several radio stations from playing Bosmic Otim’s song, ‘Fire Produces Ash’, on the grounds that its message was misleading (the song criticises specific politicians in ‘taunting and indecent’ language).[3]

Nigeria’s censorship board has branded the lyrics of rapper Falz’s ‘This is Nigeria’ (inspired by Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’) ‘vulgar’ and banned the song.[4]

In December 2018, officials prohibited hip-hop star Diamond Platnumz from performing outside Tanzania, due to his public performance of a song that had been banned for its sexually explicit lyrics.[5]

Hip-hop artist Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu) entered Ugandan mainstream politics in 2018 as an MP, known as the ‘Ghetto President’. He was arrested in July, along with numerous opposition politicians, and his driver shot dead.[6] In September, Wine was arrested again, tortured, and prevented from leaving the country to seek medical treatment.

Wine eventually made it to the USA, but on his return at least eight journalists were detained at the airport for covering his arrival.[7] The Uganda Communication Commission stormed Radio Sapientia during the broadcast of a mid-morning radio programme over their coverage of the same event.[8]

In Zambia, musician and activist Fumba Chama, also known as ‘Pilato’, left the country in January 2018 after he received threats about his song Koswe Mumpoto (rat in the pot), which was interpreted as critical of President Edgar Lungu and his ruling Patriotic Front (PF) ministers. Pilato was arrested at the airport on trumped up protest charges when he returned in May 2018.[9]



[1] IFEX, From Musicians to Media, From Subtle to Severe: Suppression of Free Expression in Africa, 10 September 2018, available at

[2] Financial Times, ‘Africa’s youth, frustrated, jobless and angry, demand attention’, 12 April 2017, available at

[3] Cissy Makumbi and Polycap Kalokwera, ‘Song critical of government big shots banned’, Daily Monitor, 5 June 2018, available at

[4] IFEX, From Musicians to Media, From Subtle to Severe: Suppression of Free Expression in Africa, 10 September 2018, available at

[5] Freedom House, Freedom in the World, 2019, available at

[6] Human Rights Watch, Uganda: Attacks on Opposition Figures, Media, 21 August 2018, available at

[7] Committee to Protect Journalists, Ugandan Police Arrest at Least 8 Journalists Covering Opposition MP Bobi Wine, 20 September 2018, available at

[8] Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda, Unity Radio in Northern Uganda Remains Closed, as Police Charges Journalists, 21 November 2018, available at

[9] Amnesty International, Zambia: Musician and activist ‘Pilato’ must be released immediately and unconditionally, 16 May 2018, available at