The Hyenas Have The Last Laugh

Misgivings have been expressed about the registration of the Team Mafisi Foundation by Non Governmental Board Chief executive Fazul Mahamed. I thought it was a joke. It did not help that the Mafisi foundation is led by a comedian known as Jaymo Ule Msee, who made his name doing parodies on Nairobi’s dating scene. The registration of Team Mafisi foundation at a time when Human Rights organisations are facing harassment and threat of deregistration, is to say the least, another puzzling Kenyan peculiarity. The bounds of absurdity have no limits in Kenya.

If you have no idea what Team Mafisi is, here is the condensed version. Fisi is the Kiswahili word for the spotted hyena, probably Africa’s most vilified animal after the warthog. The term gained traction with social media memes, to make fun of men caught ogling at shapely women in public places. It was harmless chiding in the beginning but unlike fleeting social media trends, it morphed into a mafisi sacco, a group of self identified ooglers who made the hyena their mascot and lust their binding creed. Now there is a legit foundation called Mafisi.

Hands Off Our Girls

I have always had issues with the glorification of the term Team Mafisi. Not so much for the boyish bravado that underlines the desire to seek more female attention than one can handle. But because the term Team Mafisi is a sexual innuendo that on the surface looks like harmless fun, though in reality it is a layered statement that is often used as a cover for sex predators.

Ironically, the original meaning of Team Mafisi was rooted on an entirely different premise. I picked up this insight during a discussion with a man called Tomah who is behind the Sheng Nation project; a smart initiative to legitimise Sheng as a recorded language. Tomah and his crew at the Sheng Nation had done extensive work tracking the roots of many Sheng phrases and invariably captured subtle elements of Nairobi’s Eastlands neighbourhood’s social evolution.

Beyond The TeamMaFisi Culture

Mtu hafai kulala na jeans #TeamMafisiQuotes

Children are good teachers when you pay attention. I took my nephew Nigel out for an ice cream treat. I thought all toddlers loved ice cream. Not Nigel. He says ice cream is for ‘children’. Later in the day  I recounted the incident to his mother. She said he spent too much time with grownups. She was worried he may grow into a ‘chauvinist’ like his uncle. She did not sound like she was ‘just kidding’. Nigel is six years old going on 18. He has no patience for children his age. His favourite phase, is ‘when I become big” and his strategy towards that end is hanging out with adult males with the single objective of picking up all the right habits. So we pray.

On that score, he is wise way beyond his years. Biology does not make you a ‘man’. It’s our habits in actual fact that define us. Habits are the one thing that separate boys from men and not age. So boys will be boys until, they know better or someone points out the absurdity of trying to sleep with every girl who looks ‘so hot’.

Of Team Mafisi And The Eritrean Blues


A hoax story about the Eritrean government offering brides for polygamous marriage as a national decree went viral. Predictably, it provided much needed escapism in Kenya’s social media space, following the tragic attack of a KDF Somalia camp. Kenyan men only heard, “hot chicks, no courtship required” and they all wished it were true. The exotic fruit has never lost its appeal. The notorious Team Mafisi packs pounced on the news item and milked it for all it was worth. The memes were funny but the undertones, not so much.

“Fisi” is Kiswahili for ‘hyena’. “Ma” connotes plural. In Kiswahili and most African languages, term ‘fisi’ is packed with teachings because culturally animals are used to illustrate human traits.

In African folkore, hyenas were always characterized as the bad boys of the animal kingdom. Hyena tales were used to teach refrain against greed, gluttony and opportunism. “Why are you behaving like a hyena!” a mother would say at the table. As recently as the 70s and 80s, hyena-human encounters were fairly frequent. In parts of rural Kenya of the old, it was said, that hyenas were such opportunists that they escorted villagers home, salivating over one’s swinging hand in the hope that it would fall off. Teenagers boys who loved to foray at night in search of ‘village parties’ were warned to look out for “Night runners, cattle thieves and hyenas”. Hyenas were generally considered cowardly but dangerous and thought to laugh badly. Hyenas laugh loudly and human mothers worried that children would be wrongly influenced. So if you laughed hard with your mouth open, you would be told to stop laughing like a hyperventilating hyena with asthma.