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Africa

Kenyan cartoonist Gado: 'My role is to tell the truth'

Kenyan cartoonist Godfrey Mwampembwa, also known as Gado, is concerned about the state of press freedom in his country. The renowned satirist says Kenyan politicians have tightened their grip on the media.

The decision by one of Kenya's leading press organs, the Daily Nation, not to extend the contract of popular cartoonist Gado has caused concern among journalists in the country that their prized media freedom is at risk. Gado, whose real name is Godfrey Mwampembwa said his removal, and the sacking of several other journalists, showed the Daily Nation and its parent company, the Nation Media Group, had "crumbled" under pressure from President Uhuru Kenyatta's government in response to Gado's relentless criticism of politicians. Gado's black and white sketches have won a large following around Africa for depicting politicians as greedy and corrupt. Gado has been talking to DW about his understanding of his role as a political cartoonist.

DW: How would you describe the situation of cartoonists in Kenya and East Africa in general?

Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado): I think we have seen a tremendous improvement since there has been an increase in press freedom in Kenya. Because of that we have many newspapers that have employed quite a number of artists. You have a situation where lots of artists and cartoonists have been able to showcase their work and sell their products online. Nevertheless, we have challenges here and there - and they will always be there - but overall we have had a great improvement.

Are you saying that that media gagging has not been very serious, that there has been more press freedom and freedom of expression in Kenya?

There have been attempts to gag the media in Kenya The politicians will never stop trying that. My experience has been that from one administration to another the challenge is always how to deal with that, and in the last two years we have seen here in Kenya that the current administration is not happy with the press, they have said so many times. But the freedom of expression that Kenya has gained must be protected by all means.

A 2008 Gado cartoonshowing Kofi Annan,Mwai Kibaki und Raila Odinga

This 2008 cartoon by Gado shows Kofi Annan, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga (left to right)

As a political cartoonist, what do you wish to achieve with your work?

We political cartoonists are supposed to tell the story, to speak the truth. As a satirist of course you have a duty to tell the emperor that he is naked, and that is as delicate as it sounds.

Recently, DW hired you as a cartoonist to address various topics in East and Central Africa, how do you feel about that?

Over the years I have contributed to different outlets and I had never contributed to DW before. So I'm very happy to be a contributor with DW because it gives me an opportunity to reach a wider audience out there. Today, with the use of Internet and social media, it is important to reach as many people as possible with these tools.

Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado) is a political cartoonist based in Nairobi.

Interview: Josephat Charo

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