Welcome to Angola, Nicki Minaj
I welcome you to Angola. I am a journalist and human rights defender who has been at the forefront of exposing the dictatorial ills of the regime, whose first daughter and princess of state-looting, Isabel dos Santos, is your host.
Moments ago I received a message on my cell phone, from an UNITEL operator offering me a ticket to your concert tomorrow with the purchase of a 900 kwanzas (US $4.50) phone credit. That is for your concert “for the people” in the Coqueiros Stadium, with a capacity of 20,000 people. UNITEL is the company jointly owned by Isabel dos Santos and the Angolan state, which is paying your fees.
In spite of all the advertising campaigns undertaken by UNITEL to promote your concert “for the people”, sales have been in a slump. At 900 kwanzas per ticket, the concert is basically free, yet people are still not coming forth. The UNITEL message, 24 hours before the concert, giving away the tickets, is a sign of passive resistance by the youth who may actually like your music. They should have been entranced by your fame and the alleged generosity of our own Marie Antoinette, Isabel dos Santos, and flocked to the gates of the Coqueiros Stadium.
Thus, I am writing to you not to join in the celebrity bashing of you coming to sing to a dictator and human rights offender, his family and the elite; but, to thank you for coming at a critical time for Angolans to provide a test case on how free entertainment can still fool them and distract them from real issues.
First, let me explain why I refused to take a stand against you. Western presidents are known for courting my dictator. Recently, the French President François Hollande visited Angola, and had only praise for President Dos Santos. Angola currently sits on the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, and there has been no outcry to unseat it from such a distinguished institution. Even the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently had kind words for the Angolan regime, with which the US has a strategic dialogue partnership. There has been no international uproar because of the succor Western leaders provide to the Angolan regime, and against the multinationals that do opaque business deals in the country. So, why should I be concerned for you taking some hundreds of thousands of dollars from this regime while singing for them?
I can only wonder while the bank Banco de Fomento de Angola, half-owned by Isabel dos Santos, does not allow me to withdraw my US $3,000 to contribute to my mother’s urgent surgery in South Africa. The argument is that they either pay after the hospital performs the surgery or I must have an approved ticket to travel abroad to be able to withdraw US $2,500, because the country is facing a major crisis in foreign currency. The South African hospital wants me to pay up front. Some people have been waiting for several months for such payments to be made. But there is plenty of foreign currency to pay you to come here even if the tickets are being given away now for free. Like me, most Angolans are feeling the impact of the looting of the state by the president’s family and friends, which is behind the current economic crisis. As I write to you, the army and the police forces, which are the muscles of the regime, are yet to receive their salaries for the months of November and December. Hospitals are now lacking in basic medicines.
I remember how during the worst years of the civil war, we would have the president happily smiling for the cameras while enjoying the coronation of Miss Angola in pageants sponsored by his wife. Call them insensitive. So, you come to show that the insensitive presidential family has not changed.
Although I do not know your music, and I am not interested in you personally, I find it amusing by the contribution that you are making to revealing our president José Eduardo dos Santos for what he is: a dictator. Recently, the venerable BBC named billionaire Isabel dos Santos as one of the 100 most influential women in the world, and interviewed her with soft questions giving her respectability for her ill-gotten gains. But weeks later, it also reported on the Human Rights Foundation’s campaign call for you to cancel your trip to Angola. The BBC even mentioned that Isabel dos Santos had been named by Transparency International “as one of 15 symbols of grand corruption worldwide.”
I would have been more upbeat if Angolans, within civil society, had organized a campaign to boycott your concert. That would have shown how Angolan society is articulate in its stand against the dictator, his daughter, and the human rights offenders. But every move the regime makes shows how it is falling apart anyway.