A young man in has decided to start rapping in English to fight against what he sees as an unjust and corrupt government in his oil-rich country. Watchdog groups often rank Equatorial Guinea at the bottom of indexes on worldwide corruption. The rapper, who calls himself Ali-G, is one of the few voices of dissent in a country tightly controlled by the government and security forces. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Malabo.
"People are living horrible, you know. I am saying, it is terrible. This country is tasteless. But you know the rules man. You are going to get suffer."
Ali-G does some freestyle rap as he gives a tour of his neighborhood called San Valentin.
Water comes from the sky here and not taps, and has made roads very muddy. Ali-G feels the same about his country's government. "It could be better if the government is changed and they bring new people with new ideas, young people. I mean, people who think straight; people who fly straight; people who understand what is success, who know God. Once you fear God, you bring in success, but once you do not fear God, you bring in wrong deeds and evil minded people, corrupt people," he said.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema took power in a coup in 1979. In recent parliamentary elections, his party won 99 out of 100 seats. The results surprised some as opposition rallies had been well attended by students and unemployed.
But Ali-G says there is no freedom of choice. "The man is a dictator, so when you talk, if you do not want to vote, it is a problem. He could write your name down and give you no job. That is the problem. One thing about the government is all the family is into it. Everybody is in the government, themselves, the brothers, the cousins, a tribe in the same particular government. They do not want to give the rest chances. They want to take all the chances. So that is it. All the youth are angry," he said.
The president says he guarantees stability, protects the country against foreign control, and builds roads both on the main island and the mainland which make up sub-Saharan Africa's third oil producer. But there are no opposition newspapers here. Many opposition activists end up in jail or exiled, sometimes dead. State television panders to the president. People are afraid to even say his name.
Ali-G says he gives concerts in Malabo from time to time, and that he gets away with what he does, because, he says, authorities have no idea of what he is saying.
"With my lyrics I do think I have freedom of speech, I can express myself. They do not understand what I am saying. So that is why I can kick it up. If they knew what I was saying, they could rip me up. Because my lyrics are good. My friends like me, the street likes me, the boys in the neighborhood like me," he said.
But Ali-G does not make much money from rapping.
He studied for a few years in South Africa to get a computer degree, but quit when his money ran out. He says, anyway, degrees do not mean much in Equatorial Guinea where people have to pay to get jobs.
Ali-G says he wants to change his rapper name, since now the British actor with the same name has gotten famous.
He likes to mimic American gangster rap culture. But instead of using hard drugs and guns like some gangster rappers, he explains, he makes do with cough syrup and knives which he keeps by his bed. "It is like cough syrup and all that, because of the dust and everything here. So when you take it, you sleep and just feel free. And these are my knives. Anybody wants to come steal me, I get him in his neck, Taleban-style. That is why I keep these. They are kind of sharp though. I do not have guns. I could have brought so many guns into this country. But you cannot do that. He [the president] will not allow that," he said.
Ali-G ends the visit with another bit of freestyle rapping. "Because everybody here do not love people man. They are haters. So when you got something shining, they are all too quick to send you to the cemetery. I am talking about this in the radio. So if you are listening to me, this is Ali-G speaking, straight from Malabo City. Please, please, please, do something to the government man. I do not believe in the government too, so let us do something good you know. That is what I am saying, so peace out," he said.