The Kenyan man behind a video recording that went viral of a Chinese national declaring that Kenyans were monkeys has finally spoken out.
Richard Ochieng’, 26, told the New York Times that he had never experienced racism firsthand until last year when his job search led him to Ruiru where he found work at a Chinese motorcycle company that had just expanded to Kenya.
His new boss and age mate, Liu Jiaqi, started calling him a monkey, with one instance happening when the two were on a sales trip and spotted a troop of baboons by the roadside.
“‘Your brothers,’” he said his boss exclaimed, urging Mr. Ochieng’ to share some bananas with the primates.
And it happened again, he said, with his boss referring to all Kenyans as primates.
Humiliated and outraged, Mr. Ochieng’ decided to record one of his boss’s rants, catching him declaring that Kenyans, beginning with President Uhuru Kenyatta, were “like a monkey people.”
After his cellphone video went viral in September, the Kenyan authorities swiftly deported Liu Jiaqi back to China.
Mr Ochieng’ further claimed that he took the job as a salesman thinking it would secure a prosperous future, but when he showed up to work he found a different reality. The pay was a fraction of what he was initially offered, he said, and it was subject to deduction for a long list of infractions.
“No laughing,” was one of the injunctions printed in the company rules.
Each minute of lateness — sometimes unavoidable given Nairobi’s notorious traffic — came with a steep fine. An employee who was 15 minutes late might be docked five or six hours’ pay, Ochieng’ said.
Ochieng’ said sometimes Liu Jiaqi smiled and was good-natured but whenever the question of pay came up or something went wrong, the Chinese manager turned on his subordinates.
When Ochieng’ left a sales brochure behind in the car during a sales visit and had to excuse himself to retrieve it, he said Liu Jiaqi began crowing, “This African is very foolish.”
According to Ochieng’, the most painful were the monkey insults that did not stop despite several protests against Liu Jiaqi.
“It was too much,” he said. “I decided, ‘Let me record it.’”
Ochieng’ said he had heard stories of colonialism — “what our forefathers went through” — and worries that the Chinese will take Kenya backwards, not forward as the nation’s leaders have assured.
“These guys are trying to take us back to those days,” he said in the tiny room he shares with his wife and two-year-old son. On the wall hung a poster with a verse from Ephesians. Nearby, on a little desk rested two Bibles, both equally dog-eared with use.
“Someday I will tell my son that when you were young, I was despised because I was black,” he said.
Additional Reporting by The New York Times