Mozambicans march to honor protest rapper after his death

Streaming HUBMarch 17, 2023

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — Mozambicans are planning marches across the country to honor Azagia, a popular protest rapper and fierce government critic who died last week.

Memorial marches have been planned in every major city on Saturday for the musician who died after an epileptic seizure at the age of 38.

The nationwide demonstrations follow a funeral procession for Azagia on Wednesday, with thousands marching through the streets of the capital Maputo, chanting slogans such as “resistance” and “power to the people”.

Riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowd as it tried to carry Ajgaia’s coffin in front of Ponta Vermelha, the official residence of the president.

Such mass demonstrations criticizing the government of President Filipe Nyusi are rare in Mozambique.

“Azhgaiya was the hero of the people. More hero than president, so we are taking him to the president’s house,” said Walter, a protester, who declined to give his last name for his safety. Speaking before the procession was dispersed, he said: “Nothing like this (the march) has ever happened before.”

Azagaia, whose real name was Edson da Luz, was known for openly denouncing government corruption in his music and had a large following, especially among young people.

Thousands of people are expected to take part in commemorative marches planned for Saturday in all 11 provinces of Mozambique. However, police have refused to authorize a demonstration in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where the government has been fighting an Islamist extremist insurgency since 2017.

Authorities have told organizers in the Cabo Delgado towns of Montepuez and Pemba that marches may be allowed for a second day when public sentiment calms down.

Mozambique has occasionally seen protests over fuel and bread prices but such mass demonstrations celebrating opposition activists are unusual.

The day after Ajagaia died, a vigil was held in Maputo where hundreds of people came to listen to the tributes, many of whom explicitly criticized the ruling party Frelimo.

“[Azhagia]never took sides with any political party because he was the voice of the people,” Tirso Sitto, an organizer of the vigil, told The Associated Press. He showed us that things have not changed since independence (in 1975). The only thing that has changed is the skin color (of the rulers).

Azagaia gained a passionate following and notoriety with songs such as “Povo no poder” (“Power to the People”), which was released in 2008 during protests against rising fuel prices. The rapper accused the politicians of stealing the luxury life of the common people. Since then it has become an anthem of protest against the government. Other songs commented on issues such as police brutality and drug trafficking.

In recognition of his popularity, Mozambican officials paid tribute to Azagia.

Mozambican Minister of Culture Aldevina Materula said, “Mozambique music and culture is in mourning.”

Nevertheless, Ajgaiah was often treated with hostility by the government when he was alive. His songs were generally censored on state media and the Attorney General’s Office accused him of inciting violence after the release of “Povo no poder”.


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