by Lily Rashida
US singer Erykah Badu is in the news again and this time, she is being highly criticised over her planned performance for the Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, shortly after she was heavily censured for her performance at King Mswati III of Swaziland’s 46th birthday celebration.
She has been accused by activists as an artiste who is “endorsing a brutal dictator”, for performing at that concert. The singer has refused to render any apology, arguing that she doesn’t “keep up with current events” and her “harmless” visit did not help “further [Mswati’s] political agenda”.
On Twitter, she was similarly obstinate over the scheduled performance in The Gambia:
I’m not performing in Gambia?? Thats false advertisement ..BUT, if I were.. It would ALSO be for the PEOPLE. . MUSIC HEALS. I stand firm.
— ErykahBadoula (@fatbellybella) May 3, 2014
President Jammeh’s regime consistently cracks down on the opposition and the media. In its submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Gambia, the human rights organisation, Amnesty International, stated “Since Gambia’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010, the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated. The government continues to stifle freedom of expression and commit other human rights violations with impunity.”
An online campaign has been put in place by web users to enlighten the singer about the Gambian dictator. See Facebook update and comments below:
In a column posted at Slate by Pedro Pizano and Jeffrey Smith, the authors argued Badu’s “response to being called out for” performing for “Swaziland’s brutal dictator” was “worse than the performance itself.”
On Twitter, Coalition for Change, an organization against the Gambia’s dictatorship, responded to a tweet from Badu:
Apparently, President Jammeh claims that he has a miracle paste that cures HIV and AIDS.
Fatou Camara, a former Gambian television star and host of the country’s most popular TV show “The Fatu Show”, tweeted about her suffering under President Jammeh’s regime:
Jeffrey Smith shared this photo of Badu from the Gambia Roots Festival Facebook page showing her alongside other prominent artists scheduled to perform in Gambia:
A blog post on Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders says Badu is unapologetic about performing for dictators, it reads:
If Badu bristles under criticism for entertaining King Mswati, she’ll really be frustrated by the world’s reaction when she performs at a concert this May sponsored by the dictator of The Gambia. After seizing power in 1994 military coup, Yahya Jammeh is best known for spending millions of dollars on private parties, for promising to inflict “the ultimate penalty” on homosexuals, for warning the UN that gays are “a threat to human existence,” for claiming that he can cure AIDS in three days, and for executing and disappearing hundreds of his critics. After her Swazi quagmire, perhaps Badu will reconsider her scheduled performance in The Gambia, where she would provide cover for yet another despot, this one a lot more murderous than King Mswati.