President Jose Eduardo dos Santos may have announced his plans to step down in 2018, but the ruler who has ruled the oil-rich nation since 1979, still holds a lot of clout in his nation. It must therefore not come as a surprise that a rapper, Luaty Beirao, who goes by the stage name Ikonoklasta, has been served a prison sentence of five and a half years on the charge of planning a rebellion against the president.
The sentence was handed down by a court in he nations capital, Luanda and with him were also 16 other activists who likewise received jail terms between two to eight years. The 17 activists were arrested in June last year where they had been discussing a book about non-violent resistance at their book club. The book was a 1993 book by Gene Sharp called From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.
Ikonoklasta who is a well known critique of the government is most known for agitations along the lines of a fairer distribution of the oil wealth of the Southern state. Both himself and the other activists, belong to a youth movement that previously held demonstrations demanding the resignation of President dos Santos. Following their detention, he had embarked on a five week hunger strike in September in protest. AFP news agency however reported his conviction today, stating hat the judge convicted him of; “rebellion against the president of the republic, criminal association and falsifying documents”.
For a trial that prompted widespread global outrage, especially among rights groups, which categorized the government as becoming increasingly repressive, it is not also surprising that Human Rights Watch has condemned the verdict as a ridiculous scandal. It is left to see if all the insistent condemnation of the verdict will make a difference for Ikonoklasta and his friends.
What should impress people about this unfortunate story however, is that a rapper and several other younger Angolans are educating themselves on ways to stand up to their government non-violently. If Ikonoklasta has indeed sparked a fire of activism, the next generation of Angolan leaders, which will be brought to the forefront soon (if President Santos keeps his word) will be held o a higher accountability standard.