Erykah Badu defends Swaziland performance criticized by human rights groups

Activists have called on Erykah Badu to explain why she performed at the birthday celebration of Swaziland's King Mswati III.
By Kate Stanton Follow @KateStan Contact the Author   |  May 2, 2014 at 3:14 AM
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LOS ANGELES, May 1 (UPI) -- Erykah Badu traveled to Swaziland last month to perform at the birthday celebration of King Mswati III, a move described by the Human Rights Foundation's Alex Gladstein as a "slap in the face of all human rights defenders inside Swaziland" and "a mockery of Badu's work inside the U.S."

The 46-year-old Mswati rules with absolute power over Swaziland, where he has banned political parties and lives with 15 wives.

"The king is a kleptocrat who lives in the lap of obscene luxury while most of his countrymen toil in abject poverty for less than $2 a day," Gladstein said.

Badu, a 43-year-old Dallas native, told the Dallas Morning News that she wasn't aware of the political situation when she agreed to perform.

"I went into a situation not completely knowing the political climate of the kingdom," she said. "I can’t be held responsible for the situation in the kingdom because I signed up as an artist, not as a political activist. I don’t belong to anyone or to anything. Anything I do is because I am a human being, and I am for the people."

"If I did have a relationship with the king of Swaziland, why wouldn’t they take an opportunity to speak with me to see how I could help solve whatever issues they are having rather than attack me?" she added. "But they did not. It’s very unfair to say my performance is an endorsement. There is no place on this planet that I would not visit. I will always take an opportunity, if invited, to go to the people wherever they are in whatever condition they are in."

Badu continued to actively defend herself on Twitter Thursday.

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