Amnesty International honours Angélique Kidjo with top human rights award

Angelique Kidjo

Amnesty International has given its top 2016 human rights award to Grammy award-winning musician Angélique Kidjo and to three African youth activist movements for their work standing up to injustice, the organisation announced on Wednesday.

Benin-born Kidjo and groups Y’en a Marre from Senegal, Le Balai Citoyen from Burkina Faso and Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA) from the Democratic Republic of Congo have shown “exceptional courage,” Amnesty said.

“[They] have all proved themselves to be bold advocates for human rights, using their talents to inspire others,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general, said.

Previous winners of the Ambassador of Conscience award include the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi and the rock band U2. Last year it was awarded to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and American singer-songwriter Joan Baez.

Kidjo fled her homeland in the 1980s after being pressured to perform for the country’s repressive regime. In a 30-year career spawning 12 albums, she has been a prominent campaigner for freedom of expression and against female genital mutilation.

Y’en a Marre (Fed Up) is a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists who joined forces in 2011 to encourage young people to register to vote in the country’s election, and to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Y’en a Marre has remained active since the election, hosting meetings and urging the new government to implement promised changes such as land reform, a key issue affecting Senegal’s rural poor.

Le Balai Citoyen (The Citizen’s Broom) is a political grassroots movement committed to peaceful protest. It was founded in 2013 by two musicians, reggae artist Sams’K Le Jah and rapper Smockey (Serge Bambara). The group has voiced concerns about a range of issues from corruption and land grabs to power cuts, and it has mobilised people to claim their rights and fight impunity.

LUCHA is another community-based youth movement committed to peaceful protest. It was created in Goma, eastern DRC, in 2012. Its activism focuses on social issues, human rights and the protection of civilians from armed groups. LUCHA advocates for social justice and democratic governance through non-partisan and non-violent actions.

Kidjo and her fellow awardees will be honoured at a ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on May 28.

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