Luaty da Silva Beirão in on a hunger strike.
Luaty da Silva Beirão in on a hunger strike.

A new wave of democratic protests has been spreading across Africa, from Angola to Burkina Faso and beyond, as several long-time leaders look to extend their rule for as long as they can, often defying their country's own constitution.

Front and center in these popular movements have been several prominent hip hop stars. The French-language weekly Jeune Afrique reports that Luaty da Silva Beirão, a 33-year-old Angolan rapper has now been kept in preventive detention for four months — well above the 90 days allowed by law.

Beirão, who goes by the stage name Ikonoklasta, was arrested on charges of conspiring to overthrow President José Eduardo dos Santos, Africa's longest-serving leader after more than 36 years in power.

Beirão was arrested together with 14 other militants during a meeting to discuss Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy, the book that is said to have influenced the "Arab Spring" and the popular movement in Ukraine.

After going on a hunger strike September 21 to protest his arrest, Beirão has lost 15 kilograms and since been hospitalized But Jeune Afrique suggests that the regime's crackdown on the popular entertainer could backfire, risking turning him into a martyr. NGOs and the authorities in Portugal (of which Angola is a former colony and of which he's also a citizen) are reportedly increasingly concerned over his health and treatment. Beirão's trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 16, and he faces a prison sentence of up to 12 years.

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