By Prudence Minayo
Boniface Mwangi is a politician, award winning CNN photojournalist and human rights activist who describes himself as a Kenyan who is passionate about justice, equity and working with like-minded individuals to build a better society. He won the TIME award: Next Generational Leaders 2015.
Through his work, he aims to bring to light and document injustices suffered by the common mwananchi (citizen). He is famous for images of the 2007-2008 post-election violence that nearly brought Kenya to it’s knees.
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Boniface Mwangi was born on 10th July 1983. He is currently 38-years-old.
Kabete Approved School
The activist was a sent to an approved school when he was 11 years old. He was convicted by Senior Magistrate Olouch of ‘vagrancy’ and confined in an approved school for 7 years until he turned 18. According to Boniface Mwangi, he had gone to court “expecting to be discharged”.
He was expelled from the institution on October 7, 1999.
“I had defended myself in mitigation as coached by fellow juveniles at the Kabete remand home and blamed my mum for my delinquency. I had told the court that the prayers meetings I was compelled to attend, the poverty at home and the lack of school books had led me to the streets. However, the probation officer had done a report and that was what the magistrate used to convict me”.
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He added, ” My mother later said that she had made up her mind to let me go to approved school me from myself”, Mwangi shared on his twitter account.
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The political activist was born in Taveta, which is at the border between Kenya and Tanzania. His mother did business across the border and he grew up speaking Swahili. At the age of 6, he went to live with his grandparents in Nyeri and it was not easy for him as he only communicated in Swahili.
Later on, he went to live with his mother in Ngara, Nairobi, before moving to Majengo, Githurai 45 and finally settling in Pangani. At the time, he would drop in and out of school.
When he was 17-years-old, his mother passed away and he decided to take education more seriously. He wanted to become a pastor and he followed this dream by joining a Bible School where he got a diploma in Bible studies.
Boniface then developed interest in photojournalism. He was inspired by the photos of Mohammed Amin on the 1983-1985 Ethiopian famine. They showed him that photos could tell a story. He found a school offering journalism that accepted him although he had not completed his O-levels. To fund for his studies, he sold books on the streets.
His mother named Wakiuruwa Mahinge died when he was 17-years-old. He is married to Hellen Njeri Mwangi. Boniface was 23 years when he married his partner. She works with him in his initiatives. They have three children: Simphiwe, Sifa and Mboya.
Boniface went on to become a great photojournalist. He started gaining fame in photojournalism when he won his first prize in 2005. Mwangi went on to scoop the 2008 and 2010 CNN Africa Photojournalist awards for his works.
During the post election violence, he documented photos of the aftermath of the elections. This was not easy for him as he saw first hand the trauma the PEV had brought to Kenyans. He experienced post traumatic stress and depression which prompted him to quit photojournalism but before this he started Picha Mtaani (loosely translated to- pictures on the streets) which showed pictures of the violence that were circulated around Kenya, as a form of showing people the negative effects of violence and helping in mending the fences so that reconciliation can happen. The pictures were followed by a documentary called Heal the Nation.
This made him realize his passion for activism. He realized he could actually fight for human rights and that was exactly what he went on to do.
In preparation for the 2013 general elections, he formed Team Courage and MaVulture. Team courage, based in Nairobi, is a movement aimed at taking courageous and workable steps in the building of a new Kenya.
The award winning photojournalist also created an initiative called Pawa 254. The initiative’s aim is to create a platform where artists and activists work together in creating social change.
As a photojournalist, he was awarded the CNN Photojournalist of the Year Award in both 2008 and 2010.
Boniface Mwangi also took a plunge into politics. In the 2017 Kenya general elections, he vied for the Starehe constituency Member of Parliament seat under his then formed party, Ukweli party. He lost to Charles Njagua Kanyi.
His house in Lukenya was bombed with the activist laying the blame on Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua. According to Boniface Mwangi, the Governor knew he was building in that area and that’s why he suspect his hand in the unfortunate incident that happened on 20th October. The activist has been sharing on social media the relationship between Juliani and Mutua’s ex-wife Lillian Ng’ang’a and not so faltering words.
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