Kigogo2014 (Didier Mlawa): How an online activist became an extortionist

Kigogo2014 (Didier Mlawa): How an online activist became an extortionist

From around 2019, Mr. Didier Mlawa, a Tanzanian national, gained notoriety and a big online following in the country for his Twitter protest of undemocratic tendencies of the previous regime. His online activism under the name Kigogo2014 made him enemies in high places. Sooner, he fled the country and gained asylum in the UK. He is earning a stipend and his housing is subsidized by UK taxpayers. He also received funding from Ford Foundation to finance his Twitter activism.

Then came March 19th, 2021. Tanzania completely changed when a new President was sworn in. She earnestly began a process of political reconciliation: political prisoners were freed, politically-driven criminal prosecutions were dropped, bank accounts of businessmen and politicians that were unfairly frozen were unfrozen, a six-year ban on political rallies was lifted, and political parties engaged in a dialogue for a new democratic dispensation. As a result, all political asylees returned home.

However, even with these new developments, Mr. Mlawa continued to protest the new government vehemently as if nothing changed. But this lasted only for a few months. All over a sudden, he changed direction and became an ardent supporter and defender of the new government. Given his online popularity, this was a coup by the ruling elite. There is only one problem though: he didn’t return back home like all other asylees – well, at least, formally. And this is why Tanzanians on social media have created a petition demanding the UK government to revoke his refugee status, and this is the point of this petition.

Since the new government came into office, Mr. Mlawa has been back in Tanzania three times. During these visits, he has been meeting politicians, businesspeople and members of the security services. He has offered his online support services to the government and to certain political personalities – for a steep pay. The problem is that Mr. Mlawa has been coming back to Tanzania, a country ostensibly too dangerous for him to live, in blatant deception to the UK Home Office, especially the Directorate of Immigration and Citizenship Services.

The trick is that he comes to Kenya and then sneaks by road into Tanzania to meet with people he is deceiving the UK authorities that are after him. A number of Tanzanians are therefore calling upon the UK authorities to revoke his refugee status and let him leave the country or live through his own sweat, and not at the expense of UK taxpayers. The Ford Foundation has already cut funding to him. To aid the UK Home Office conduct investigation on the matter, a top investigative journalist in Tanzania has provided an itinerary of his latest visit to the country.

He flew out of Heathrow Airport, in London, on January 5th 2023 on a Qatar Airway flight number QR006 to Doha, then onwards to Nairobi, Kenya, on the same airline, flight number QR1335 arriving on January 6th, 2023 at 7:20am. He then drove to Dar es Salaam – without stamping his passport at the border. He conducted his meetings with the ruling and business elite between the 7th to the 13th of January, and drove back to Nairobi to board the plane back to the UK. He arrived at Heathrow Airport on 14th of January at 10pm with Qatar Airways flight number QR005.

Mr. Mlawa’s main Twitter account

Over the past year, Mr. Mlawa has morphed from an online activist to an online extortionist. On his main Twitter handle, he is a self-professed defender of the President of Tanzania. However, he maintains several fake accounts and parodies which viciously attack the President, her family and the government. He then asks people in security services, those around the President and businesspeople close to the ruling party to give money so he can deal with these “malicious accounts”. Sources report he collects an average of $15,000 to “hack” into each of these critical accounts. He also offers his services to politicians who want to malign their potential rivals. Worse, he has exposed and maligned those he worked with to advance democracy while he was still an activist.

Some of the Twitter accounts owned and used by Mr. Mlawa
Some of the Twitter accounts owned and used by Mr. Mlawa

He collects a sizable retainer from politicians here to not need to be supported by UK taxpayers. Identities and photographs of people who collect cash (retainers) from politicians who he works with have already been shared to the UK Immigration Services and Tanzania security organs. Time has probably arrived for an investigation into the matter for an appropriate action.

Imran Mjanenga
Dodoma Tanzania