Okayafrica Exclusive: Why Did The Angolan Gov't Frame & Beat A Rapper?
Angolan/Portuguese rapper Luaty Beirão aka Ikonoklasta, is an outspoken opponent of Angola's long-term president José Eduardo dos Santos and his MPLA government. Beirão spoke candidly about the state of Angola's politics to Okayafrica's Lukasz Polowczyk from the safety of Portugal, where he's currently awaiting trial for drug smuggling, a charge the Angolan government framed him for. Beirão says that he will die fighting the government for justice, adding that he is headed back to Angola on July 25th to continue the protest ahead of presidential elections there on August 31.
Lukasz Polowczyk for OKA: What is the political state in Angola right now?
Luaty Beirão: Enter the Arab Spring: in early 2011, the Angolan youth witnessed the fall of long-lasting dictators and couldn't help wishing for the same in Angola, where Mr. Dos Santos is now on his 33rd consecutive year in presidency (that dates back to Jimmy Carter folks) and wishes to run once more. Sick and tired of this bullshit, we, the youth, decided to face up to our fears and took it to the streets in uproar. Since then, we've been prey to the Angolan authorities, thrown in jail, kidnapped, tortured, our houses broken into, our skulls cracked open AND YET, we have been refusing to fight back and resort to violence, keeping our protests peaceful in nature.
Angola today: we've got elections coming up on the 31st of August and procedures that will lead to "some degree of irregularities" are already being set in motion before our very eyes, in total disregard to the electoral law, the constitution and, most of all, to the Angolan citizens, stripped of their dignity in the sole moment their voices actually count. We're FED UP!
OKA: What is the youth movement is trying to achieve?
LB: All the movement is focusing on is the practical implementation of the statutary rights covered in our National Constitution. Angola is a country led by men with archaic, jurassic mentalities, and they have proven unable and unwilling to successfully shift from communism to democracy. The bottom line is this: if you try to voice your opinions and they happen to be contrary to the government's, you're more than likely to be chased, get a beatdown in public places, have your grandmother receive death threats and all sorts of equally nasty deprivations of your basic human rights. We're a country that has witnessed a steady growth in GDP in the order of two digits for the past 7 years and still can't provide education or healthcare to the needy; we, an oil-rich nation, are forced to own generators because of the frequent power cuts; the same applies to the water supply of which a vast majority of the population has no access to. Ask Jay-Z, he was there with UNICEF and there's even a snapshot of him gazing dumbfounded at a woman carrying a 25L jerry can on her head. There are countless reasons to protest and yet whenever we have a go at it, they send us dogs, horses, taser weapons and plain-clothed civilians to do the dirty work. We want to feel free and we're more than willing to die trying. What we need right now is exposure, to put these suckers on the spot, make them feel uneasy and embarrassed, make them objects of ridicule, make them feel the hot breath of The Hague right over their necks.
OKA: What is the role of hip hop in the youth movement?
LB: Hip Hop is virtually the only genre of music in Angola where a handful of artists dare speak out against and defy the iron-fisted, almighty Goliath, facing up to the aforementioned consequences. I dare say more: it is the ONLY art form openly critical of the establishment. More interestingly, instead of officially banned, conscious hip hop has been purposely neglected for over 15 years and you can't hear it in the radio airwaves (there are less than 10 radio stations in Angola) nor see it on TV. Yet, underground artists bursted from the ground up and became household names through pirate compilations that circulate the whole country and are distributed more effectively than industrialized goods. Guess it's true what they say: the forbidden fruit is the most desired. So it backfired! Nowadays you got a totally ridiculous phenomenon where underground artists sell more records on release day, than pop trashcan artists who get promoted to exhaustion in public and private media ever do! Let's put it this way: 95% of the protesters are rappers, or influenced by Angolan underground rap moguls.
OKA: Tell us about your recent detainment.
LB: I am one of these rappers; since March 2011 I've been under the scope of these vengeance-seeking bastards and they almost managed to export their goals to a foreign nation by planting a package containing 1,7kg of cocaine in my bicycle wheel, my sole piece of luggage when I flew from Luanda to Lisbon. They waited for the flight to take off and then notified Portuguese authorities. Fortunately, it was so carelessly crafted, that the judge, in an unprecedented decision, chose to let me go free whilst waiting trial. I have total freedom of movement and I tend to use that freedom to travel back to Angola on the 25th of July, regardless of what they might already have in store for me.
OKA: How can people get involved?
LB: In this day and age, the era of communication, we are able to go to Wikileaks and blow the whistle on whatever we feel is wrong in the world, in our town, neighborhood or street corner. That ability to raise awareness awakened the journalist in all of us; all of us flock to the internet and flood it with our concerns, hoping to get the ball rolling somehow. Abundance now became the problem, with its invisibly attached price tag: people stopped caring so much, because they were quick to realize there are far too many fires to put out, that it is too much bother to worry about issues we're powerless to solve. Coming to this realization, a negative feedback is inserted into the loop, people aren't so shocked anymore at the evils of the world, they grow accustomed to the sight of beheaded people in distant wars, starving children with their sad bulky eyes and, all of a sudden, cruelty becomes "normal", tolerated as a manifestation of man's animal nature. This leads us right back to the state of numbness and apathy that them Bildeberg/Illuminati fellows want us in.
All we can do is persist and, if we're having this interview right now, that's because somewhere along the road, someone took the time to put out THIS fire, out of all the others surrounding them. With this I mean we'd be glad if one out of the many thousand readers feels touched by this story and feels enticed to dig a bit deeper. We would be even happier if this reader embraces this cause as his/her own and helps us put out this fire of ours, by any means available. It'd be awesome for instance to have the Anonymous movement jumping in the bandwagon and raise hell amidst that computer-illiterate, cleptocratic elite. People can be useful in all sorts of ways, it's really up to them.
For those interested in heeding Ikonoklasta's call to dig deeper, he's given us an easy-to-read run down on Angola's political history below:
First of all, please allow me to give you a little heads-up on Angola real quick, because it'll be really hard to paint the full picture if I leave the background blurry. For nearly 500 years, the territory baptized as Angola in the 1884/5 Berlin Conference was occupied by the Portuguese. In 1975 we conquered our independence after the Carnation Revolution, the portuguese military coup of April 25th, 1974, that overthrew the dictatorial regime inherited from Salazar by Marcelo Caetano. The new Portuguese regime was anti-colonisation and as soon as they took power, negotiations ensued, which culminated in the signing of the Alvor Treaty by the four beliggerent parties within Angola: Portugal, FNLA, UNITA, and MPLA. None of the subscribers respected the treaty; the MPLA took the capital city, Luanda, thus being recognized as the legitimate government (except by some countries like the USA who would never recognize a communist state at the height of the cold war), UNITA took the central city of Huambo, each proclaimed independence in their own cities, and civil war broke out.
It was a ravaging, shattering, excruciatingly long war that has torn the country apart and, after several peace treaties had been signed (and of course after the last nails in the coffin for communism, the end of USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall), finally a transition to democracy was announced in 1991. In a tragic turn of events, the first election held in 1992 didn't reach its end, tensions mounted and war was waged once more. In 2002, Jonas Savimbi was killed in the battlefield and UNITA accepted military defeat returning to more diplomatic confrontation in the National Assembly. It wasn't until 2008 that new elections were held. The elections have been heralded "fairly free and transparent with some degree of irregularities" by the European Union observers, but when they released their report of what they'd observed it became quite clear that these "minor irregularities" were, in fact, gruesome manipulations of results, that gave the MPLA a fake absolute majority in parliament. The software used was also inspected by specialists who found out that it was such garbage, that one could manually alter results without leaving a trace. No passwords nor meddling with the partition tables was required, just quick editing notepad style. In the name of peace and tranquility everyone accepted this theft and decided to wait for the presidential elections that were to take place the following year, in 2009.
Except that it didn't happen. The opposition, being now reduced to a tamed gang of cubs with no expression whatsoever, didn't even bother to make a fuss, just went with the flow, dictated by MPLA's whims. The MPLA, buoyed by their fraudulent absolute majority, drafted and approved a new constitution in which the president is indirectly elected by being appointed the head of list of the winning party.