August 20th 2017

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A world where Babu Owino is the master wordsmith

University of Nairobi student leader Paul Ongili aka Babu Owino was arrested on Tuesday evening for making statements that have since gone viral on social media, not so much for their inflammatory nature as for their poor grammar.

By Waithera Murugiswaithera@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 16 Jun 2016 08:47 EAT

Babu Owino (Photo: twitter page)

University of Nairobi student leader Paul Ongili aka Babu Owino was arrested on Tuesday evening for making statements that have since gone viral on social media, not so much for their inflammatory nature as for their poor grammar.

A police charge sheet that carries verbatim remarks by Babu as evidence of his hate speech contains words that, though reflective of Babu’s bombastic character, were noticeable for their miscarriage of the English language. Babu warned Gatundu MP Moses Kuria, who sparked national outcry by overtly calling for Raila Odinga’s assassination, that an opposition-led revolution was coming, and the revolutionaries, if they met Kuria, would deal with the MP “sacamphoniously”, “cacophoneously”, “multiply him by zero” and “raise him to power infinity”.

How the police figured out the meaning of such mangled or nonexistent English words has baffled many. Some Facebook commentators opined that the charge sheet might have been drawn by an ill-informed officer (the police service has plenty of these) who must have marveled at Babu’s facility of the English language. Readily comprehensible parts of Babu’s speech contained slurs that in other times could have passed as routine fare in Kenyan politics. He, for example, said Kuria needed to know that “Raila is not your mother's boyfriend."

Babu spent the night at Kilimani police station where he recorded a statement concerning hate speech. Upon learning of Babu’s arrest, nearly 2,000 University of Nairobi students blocked Valley Road as they marched to the police station. The students demanded the release of Babu Owino and the arrest of Gatundu South MP instead. Kuria was later arrested.

Waithera is a staff writer at the Kenya Free Press.





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