Akon is under fire from politicians for his ambitious business plans for Uganda's regime.
Rights activists are criticizing rapper/singer Akon's meetings with Uganda's president as he works to create a futuristic city in the East African nation. In a joint letter to Akon shared late Monday, the Human Rights Foundation and Vanguard Africa said Akon is helping to rehabilitate longtime President Yoweri Museveni's image after an election earlier this year marred by terror, an internet blackout, and charges of vote rigging (April 12).
The letter urges the "Smack That" star to "explicitly make clear" that he is not supporting Museveni, saying, "Museveni has used your meeting with him for official propaganda, as his regime tries to capitalize on your global reputation to whitewash its image and divert from its most recent wave of repression."
In January's election, Museveni's key opponent was Bobi Wine, a singer who has challenged the president's victory as illegitimate and has called on the international community to intervene in what he sees as a cruel dictatorship. Museveni, a regional security ally of the United States, has said that he was elected equally. In Uganda, there is also increasing concern about an undisclosed number of opposition supporters who have been arrested by security forces without being tried.
On Tuesday, a group of UN experts, speaking on behalf of the UN, urged Ugandan authorities to "immediately avoid the violent crackdown on its political opponents." The arrival of Akon in Uganda earlier this month piqued the interest of government officials, who saw his visit as a boon to tourism efforts. Museveni received the singer in a military helicopter at his rural home in western Uganda. Museveni's ranch in central Uganda hosted a second conference.
Museveni has said that he is "happy to participate in such a dialogue that will uplift our people and Africa at large" in regards to Akon's quest for business opportunities. However, some Ugandans believe Akon's visit harmed pro-democracy efforts, and that the square mile of land Uganda is donating to the singer should instead be provided to local investors desperate for such a chance.
When asked if he was concerned about being accused of working with a long-serving African chief, Akon told the local NBS channel that "honestly, that just don't bother me." Democracies clearly function differently in different countries, and not every place on the planet is designed for democracy.”
Museveni appointed the singer as the country's special envoy for tourism and culture, and he went on to say that a group of unidentified investors behind him thought "everything the people wanted." Then it's up to us to assist the government in achieving that goal.” Akon's Uganda plans include a music festival to encourage local talent as well as a futuristic city built on cryptocurrency. In recent years, Akon has made headlines as a pan-African businessman looking for prospects on the continent of 1.3 billion people. His most ambitious aim is to create a $6 billion futuristic city in Senegal that he refers to as a "real-life Wakanda," a fictional African nation featured in the blockbuster film Black Panther.
Akon City will have its own hospital, police station, and cryptocurrency, as well as a beach resort, a tech hub, recording studios, and a "Senewood" zone, which developers hope will help the Senegalese film industry grow. Akon has been given land outside of Dakar, Senegal's capital, but construction has yet to begin.
Akon, whose real name is Aliaune Thiam, founded a non-profit organization in 2014 that supports solar energy projects in rural Africa. After discovering that his grandmother in Senegal was still using candles to light her house, Akon was inspired to create Akon Lighting Africa. A business linked to him struck a deal with a state miner in December to establish a copper and cobalt mine in the resource-rich Congo.