Dec. 16, 2015 | HRF in the News

Nicki Minaj Concert in Angola Draws Human Rights Complaint

By: Katie Rogers Published: The New York Times

The Human Rights Foundation is asking Nicki Minaj to reconsider her scheduled performance in Angola on Saturday, citing a list of abuses committed by the president of the oil-rich African nation.

Nicki Minaj Concert in Angola Draws Human Rights Complaint
The Human Rights Foundation is asking Nicki Minaj to reconsider her scheduled performance in the oil-rich nation this weekend. Credit Peter Foley/European Pressphoto Agency

In an Instagram post, the 33-year-old rapper said that she would be performing at a public Christmas festival hosted by the communications company Unitel. In a letter published on Tuesday, the Human Rights Foundation said that the company is controlled, in part, by the daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the country since 1979. 

“Nicki Minaj is a global artist,” the group’s president Thor Halvorssen, said in a statement. “Millions of people look up to her for creative inspiration. There is no good reason for her to do business with the corrupt Angolan dictatorship and endorse the ruler’s family company.”

It is not unusual for celebrities to receive seven figures for performing in countries with questionable human rights records. Lately, the celebrities have also been receiving some scrutiny: In 2013, Jennifer Lopez was criticized for accepting $10 million to perform for Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the president of Turkmenistan, who has long been accused of rigging elections and running a repressive government.

Ms. Minaj is likely to be paid well for her visit to the country. In 2013, Mariah Carey received $1 million for traveling to perform in Angola. The two performers have the same manager, the organization said in the letter.

In a profile of Angola published by The New Yorker in June, the writer Michael Specter described rampant inequality in the country — the capital, Luanda, is the most expensive in the world for expatriates to live, yet the country remains one of the world’s least-developed nations. (Angola is ranked first in the world for deaths among children under the age of 5.)

Mr. Specter also chronicled the corruption that touches the daily lives of visitors — the traffic police whose bribes must be paid, the extra fees just to be seated at a restaurant and served a bottle of water.

The Humans Rights Foundation said that circumstances are even worse for Angolans. The organization cited the story of Luaty Beirao, a young Angolan rapper who was among 17 people who were jailed in June for discussing a book that covered the topic of nonviolent resistance.

Mr. Beirao had long been an outspoken critic of the government.

“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 beat down in public places, have your grandmother receive death threats and all sorts of equally nasty deprivations of your basic human rights,” Mr. Beirao, 34, told the website OkayAfrica in 2012.

The letter asked Ms. Minaj to consider her reputation for creativity and supporting young people before she heads to Angola.

“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?” it asked.

Ms. Minaj has not directly addressed the criticism in public. On Wednesday, she seemed mostly preoccupied with responding to critics about her album performance, but it appears that the show in Angola is still on — she found time to post again about her show on Twitter. She then followed up that tweet with another: “Every tongue that rises up against me in judgment shall be condemned.”