World-renowned musician Angélique Kidjo and three inspirational African youth activist movements have been declared this year’s joint winners of the prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2016.
The award will be shared between the Benin-born artist Kidjo, one of world’s most successful African singer-songwriters, and the activist groups Y’en a marre from Senegal, le Balai Citoyen from Burkina Faso and Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA) from DRC. All will be honoured at the awards ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on 28 May, according to a statement by Amnesty international.
“The Ambassador of Conscience Award is a celebration of those public figures who have shown exceptional courage in standing up to injustice. Angélique Kidjo and the members of Y’en a marre, le Balai Citoyen and LUCHA have all proved themselves to be bold advocates for human rights, using their talents to inspire others,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
Grammy-winning artist Angélique 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 for the education of girls in Africa, as well as against female genital mutilation.
Y’en a marre (Fed Up) is a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists who joined forces in January 2011 to encourage young people to register to vote in the country’s election and exercise their right to freedom of expression.
Amnesty International says three of the group’s founders were arrested in February 2012 for helping to organize a peaceful sit in protest against the government at that time. “There is no such thing as a foregone conclusion, there are only abandoned responsibilities,” said Fadel Barro, Y’en a marre’s coordinator.
Le Balai Citoyen (The Citizen’s Broom) is a political grassroots movement committed to peaceful protest and co-founded in 2013 by two musicians, reggae artist Sams’K Le Jah and rapper Smockey (Serge Bambara). Le Balai Citoyen has voiced concerns about a range of issues, from land grabs to power cuts, and mobilized people to claim their rights and fight impunity.
LUCHA is another community-based youth movement committed to peaceful protest that 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.
LUCHA activist Fred Bauma was arrested along with 26 other activists in March 2015 when Congolese security forces stormed a press conference in Masina, Kinshasa. Fred Bauma remains detained along with Yves Makwambala and at least nine people connected to LUCHA are in jail.