JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — When Nicki Minaj sings at a Christmas party in Angola this weekend, an Angolan rapper named Luaty Beirão will be in prison recovering from a hunger strike.

Minaj is due to perform Dec. 19 at a holiday party for Unitel, a mobile phone company controlled by the family of José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been president of Angola for 36 years.

Unitel is majority-owned by Isabel dos Santos, the president’s daughter, who has denied she became the richest woman in Africa because of her father’s connections to the Angolan oil industry.

Beirão along with 16 other young activists was arrested in the capital Luanda after attending a book club meeting where they discussed politics and governance issues.

They are currently on trial for “preparing acts of rebellion” and plotting to overthrow the Angolan government. Amnesty International has condemned the “kangaroo court” in which the 17 activists are being tried.

A New York-based group, Human Rights Foundation, wrote to Minaj and her manager Brian Sher this week telling them about the human rights situation in Angola, as well as the Dos Santos family’s exploitation of the country’s diamond and oil wealth.

“There is no good reason for her to do business with the corrupt Angolan dictatorship and endorse the ruler’s family company,” said Thor Halvorssen, the group’s president, in a media statement.

“What kind of inspirational message is she sending to millions of young Angolans by performing for the dictatorship that has literally stolen their freedom and their future?”

Beirão, also known by his stage name Ikonoklasta, spent 36 days on a hunger strike in protest against their arbitrary detention, and is said to still be in fragile condition.

He has been an outspoken critic of the government, arguing that the country’s oil wealth has only benefited a small and politically connected elite. Angola, a former Portuguese colony that emerged from civil war in 2002, is Africa’s second-biggest oil producer after Nigeria.

The letter from Human Rights Foundation told Minaj: “As a strong-willed, independent artist shouldn’t you be advocating for the release of the imprisoned rapper Luaty Beirão rather than entertaining the dictator and his thieving family?”

So far — at least according to her social media accounts — Minaj is still planning on performing in Angola.

By Erin Conway-Smith, GlobalPost
This article is syndicated from GlobalPost.

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