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Tough life experiences that catapulted Boniface Mwangi into activism

Mwangi has been arrested numerously, his first arrest for activism was in 2009 when he called out the late President Mwai Kibaki's government

Boniface Mwangi when he was arrested during Occupy Parliament protests in Nairobi
  • Boniface Mwangi, a prominent activist in Kenya, has been arrested multiple times for fighting for the rights of Kenyans
  • Despite a difficult upbringing marked by economic hardships, Mwangi has become a prominent figure in modern-day activism in Kenya
  • Mwangi gained recognition for his courageous coverage of the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya as a photographer

Boniface Mwangi has become the face of modern-day activism in Kenya, he has been arrested tens of times for protesting for the rights of Kenyans.

Mwangi is not alone in this endeavour as his has the support of his wife who also rises with him in activism.

According to Mwangi, the citizens of Kenya have the power to liberate the country from bad leadership.

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Boniface Mwangi was born on July 10, 1983, in Taveta, Kenya. Raised in a humble background, his upbringing was marked by economic hardships.

Mwangi was the fifth born to his mother, his father was a District Officer at Kitobo near the Kenya-Tanzania border. His mother introduced him to his father when he was 14.

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In 1986 his mother relocated to Ngara, Nairobi where he joined the Akorino denomination, he was baptised Haroun and became an ardent churchgoer.

He was later sent to live with his grandparents in Nyeri, where he joined Maganjo Primary where he lived shortly before moving back to Nairobi where he enrolled at Pangani Primary School.

His mother had then ditched the Akorino and joined the Gospel of God Church.

In 1995 Mwangi ran away from school for breaking a window and was avoiding punishment, he also ran away from home to avoid his mother's church's demands.

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Mwangi ran to Mombasa but was brought back after being arrested, he was remanded at the Kabete Juvenile Remand Home.

His mother during an interview with the probation officer said he was tired of Mwangi's ways, which led to Mwangi being sentenced to seven years at the Getathuru Approved School.

Life was hard at the institution and Mwangi one time tried to escape but was caught, later he was transferred to Othaya Approved School.

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In 1997, Mwangi led a strike at Othaya Approved School which saw him beaten often and mistreated.

Mwangi was later admitted to Kabete Approved School for his secondary education, only to be expelled in October 1998 after he sent a petition to the then Home Affairs minister, Mr Shariff Nassir, to look into the deplorable condition of the school.

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In the petititon, he included the first ever photos he secretly took with a film camera his mother bought him, which was used against him.

Mwangi would complete his secondary education in 2016 aged 34.

He then resorted to hawking books alongside his mother who lived hand-to-mouth even as she battled liver cancer without going to hospital because her denomination discouraged it.

His mother would later die and Mwangi began a new phase of life.

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Mwangi after his mother's death resorted to other jobs including selling books, running a video game shop and working in a supermarket.

In 2002, Mwangi joined Bible School where he met a lecturer who told him about the legendary photographer Mohamed Amin which sparked an interest in him.

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In 2005, Mwangi joined the Standard Group as a freelance photographer.

Mwangi gained significant recognition for his courageous coverage of the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya.

The images he captured during this period were raw, emotional, and unflinching, shedding light on the horrors of the violence and the plight of its victims.

The post-election violence was a turning point for Mwangi. The brutality and suffering he witnessed firsthand left an indelible mark on him, compelling him to take a more active role in fighting for justice.

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In 2009, Mwangi founded Pawa254, a hub for artists and activists dedicated to promoting social justice through creative means.

Pawa254 became a sanctuary for those committed to making a difference, providing resources, training, and a platform for expression.

Boniface Mwangi's activism is characterised by his fearless and often unconventional methods. He has organised numerous protests, art installations, and public demonstrations to highlight issues such as corruption, impunity, and governance failures.

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In 2020, Boniface Mwangi's life and activism were chronicled in the documentary film 'Softie.' Directed by Sam Soko, the film offers an intimate look at Mwangi's journey, his family life, and his attempt to run for political office.

Boniface Mwangi's relentless pursuit of justice has earned him numerous awards and accolades. These include:

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  • CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Award (2008, 2010): Recognizing his exceptional photojournalism during the post-election violence.
  • Prince Claus Award (2012): For his innovative use of art and media in promoting social justice.
  • Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards for Best Documentary (2020): For the film 'Softie.'
  • TIME 100 Next List (2021): Acknowledging him as one of the world's most influential emerging leaders.
  • Pulse Infuencer Awards 2021: Twitter Influecer of the Year

Boniface Mwangi is married to Njeri Mwangi, and together they have three children. His family has been a pillar of support throughout his activism journey, often standing by him during difficult times.

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Njeri Mwangi is also involved in various community initiatives, reflecting their shared commitment to social change.

In 2017, Mwangi unsuccessfully contested the Starehe parliamentary seat.

In 2016, Boniface Mwangi published his autobiography, 'Unbounded.' The book provides a comprehensive look at his life, from his challenging upbringing to his rise as a prominent activist.

'Unbounded' delves into Mwangi's personal experiences, the motivations behind his activism, and the sacrifices he has made in his quest for justice.

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Beyond his activism and writing, Boniface Mwangi is a sought-after public speaker. He frequently speaks at international conferences, universities, and civic forums, sharing his experiences and advocating for a more just and equitable world.

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Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: news@pulselive.co.ke

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