East Africans are expressing deep shock over the death of pop star
Michael Jackson Thursday of an apparent heart attack. In Kenya, the
airwaves were filled Friday with some of Jackson's greatest hits, and
even some residents in Somalia's restive capital Mogadishu took a
moment to pay tribute to the entertainer. But not everyone
was a fan.
Nairobi high school teacher Winnie Miriti says she
remembers her parents playing Michael Jackson records at home when she
was growing up. She says she the singer was a huge part of her
childhood and he will always be fondly remembered.
"The music industry has lost a great man," said Miriti. "He was a true legend. I am going to buy his album right now."
worker James Murua says he will remember Jackson as a first-class
entertainer, whose music touched an entire generation of people around
"Great, great loss to humanity really because he
set a trend with all of the dance moves and all of the current big
celebrities copied their style from Michael Jackson," he said.
Jackson catapulted to fame in the 1960s as the 8 year-old lead singer
of the Jackson Five, a hugely successful pop group made up of Jackson
and his four brothers. With his unique vocals and signature "moonwalk"
dance moves, Jackson went on to become one of the best-selling male
solo artists of all time.
But Michael Jackson's successes were
often overshadowed by troubles in his private life. He was twice
accused of sexually abusing young boys and was formally charged in 2003
with molestation. Jackson was acquitted two years later, but his
reputation had been tarnished.
Judy Mwaluko, a young student in
Nairobi, knows many of Jackson's songs, especially "We are the World,"
a song Michael Jackson co-wrote with Lionel Ritchie in the mid-1980s.
of the music industry's biggest names, including Jackson, sang the song
as a group to raise awareness for famine victims in the Horn of
Africa. Mwaluko says while she appreciates the charity work Jackson
performed, she says as a man, he was a disappointment.
music is not him. I still love his music," she said. "But he really
did many messed up things. So, I would not do anything to remember his
life or anything like that."
A journalist in the Rwandan capital
Kigali, Eunice Juhalo, says people there are sad to hear of Jackson's
death. But she says there are many people like her, who have no
opinion of Jackson one way or another.
"He is not my favorite musician," said Juhalo. "I know zero about his music and here, his death is like anybody else's death."
people in east Africa risked severe punishment to remember Michael
Jackson. In Somalia's restive capital Mogadishu Friday, a group of
young Somali men ignored the civil war raging around them for a few
minutes to listen to their favorite Jackson song.
They could not
turn up the volume on their tape recorder for fear of being heard by
members of al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group that is fighting to
overthrow the Somali government. Al-Shabab does not tolerate music or
dancing and has threatened to punish anyone who violates the rule.
Tapping his toe in defiance, one of the Somali men told VOA that Michael Jackson will be missed.
says he and his friends are shocked that their African-American brother
is gone. But his music will live on because that is something no one
will ever forget.