Luaty Beirão is an Angolan rapper known for his political activism. Since June, the 33-year-old musician has become a hero in the country, held up as a symbol by those who oppose President José Eduardo dos Santos’s government, now in power for 36 years.
Four months ago, Beirão gathered with 12 friends as part of a book group in the capital to discuss politics and read about nonviolent protest. They were arrested by the police and detained. They have now been held for 118 days, well past the legal limit, and indicted for “preparing acts pursuant to a coup d’etat”.
The continued detention of Beirão is a shocking example of the lengths to which Angolan authorities will go to suppress dissent, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, as he marked one month on hunger strike protesting against his detention.
Beirão is believed to be in critical condition in Clinica Girassol private hospital in Luanda, where he was transferred on October 15. Amnesty International is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
In Lisbon, London and Berlin, people have been marching in solidarity with the rapper and his fellow detainees, while in Angola protests and vigils have been organised by friends and family of the group.
Interviewed by the Portuguese newspaper Público in March about the 40th anniversary of Angola’s independence (due to be celebrated on November 11), Beirão said it was time for urgent change in the country: “We need new blood, new ideas and new people who have the courage to do things differently … the elite has nothing more to give, they should recognise that they served the country, they took advantage of it and now it’s time to hand it over.”
Beirão said he was aware he could become a persona non grata, words that carry particular poignancy since his hunger strike has entered a critical stage, and his health is severely compromised.
“I took a clear position against the current state of things, and pointed out people’s names. I wasn’t the first one to do it. But all you need is someone who wants to please the boss and says: ‘This boy needs to be punished, he needs to learn that he shouldn’t mess up with the almighty Angolan state and with the almighty MPLA [the party in power].’”
The son of João Beirão, a politician closely aligned to Dos Santos, Beirão said he doesn’t support his father’s views.
“Genetics has nothing to do with the views I endorse … I don’t understand how that forces me to follow my father’s line of thought.”
Also known as Ikonoklasta, the rapper has often criticised politicians during his concerts, and has been detained by the police more than once for his outspoken views.
In March 2011, following the Arab Spring, Beirão was imprisoned with a group of young people in Luanda for organising a protest march. – © Guardian News & Media 2015