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Minaj is set to headline Show Unitel Boas Festas, a Christmas festival scheduled for Saturday in Luanda, the capital of Angola, according to a post on her official Facebook page. The country has been ruled for decades by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
The African nation is often accused of violating the basic rights of journalists, activists and others who speak out against government oppression and intimidation, which sometimes is implemented through police who use excessive force to make arbitrary arrests.
In a letter mailed to Minaj via Brian Sher of Category 5 Entertainment, Thor Halvorssen, head of Human Rights Foundation, asks the rapper to cancel her scheduled appearance. Halvorssen also plans to publish the letter at his organization’s website.
The letter notes that Angolan hip-hop artist Luaty Beirao was arrested in June after attending a meeting to discuss democracy and non-violence, and that there is a trial underway against him and 16 others who attended the meeting.
“As a strong-willed independent artist, shouldn’t you be advocating for the release of the imprisoned rapper Luaty Beirao rather than entertaining the dictator and his thieving family?” asks Halvorssen in his letter, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. Minaj’s representative did not respond to a request for comment.
The letter also accuses the president’s billionaire daughter of being the main beneficiary of the “blood diamond” trade in Angola, and notes that the dos Santos family’s human-rights crimes have been documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Ms. Minaj, you are well known for being involved with charities such as the Get Schooled Foundation, which helps motivate young people to graduate from high school and succeed in college,” Halvorssen writes in his letter. “If you move forward with this performance for the dictator and his family, you will be in league with the people stealing educational resources and opportunity from young Angolans.”
Halvorssen has been a human-rights activist for decades, but was introduced to many in Hollywood when he used balloons to airlift thousands of copies of The Interview into North Korea to embarrass Kim Jong Un, who considered the comedy so detrimental to his iron-fisted rule that he allegedly ordered an unprecedented and devastating computer hack on Sony Pictures for daring to make the film.
Halvorssen, though, also isn’t shy about criticizing the few celebrities he deems overly friendly to dictators. He recently took on feminist icon Gloria Steinem and documentary filmmaker (and grand-niece of Walt Disney) Abigail Disney for conducting a peace conference in North Korea with the dictator’s support.
Halvorssen has also attacked Hilary Swank for taking money four years ago to attend the lavish birthday party of Chechen “bad guy” Ramzen Kadyrov. The actress later apologized, gave the money to charity and fired her manager over the ordeal.
Halvorssen also accused Jennifer Lopez of a pattern of “serenading crooks and dictators,” including two years ago when she allegedly took $1.5 million from Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, re-elected in 2012 with 97 percent of the vote in an election called a sham by most experts.
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