The R&B singer has been on a Twitter counteroffensive after being faced with a wave of criticism for her Tuesday performance in Swaziland. That country's dictator, King Mswati III, has controlled the country for three decades and has been accused of myriad human rights abuses, including the torture, imprisonment and "disappearing" of protestors, journalists and activists.
Badu sang "Happy Birthday" for the king and presented him with an array of gifts. Activist groups including the Human Rights Foundation immediately criticized the show, calling it "the height of hypocrisy," according to HRF International Council member George Ayittey. "Despite a carefully crafted image of American civil rights activism, Badu praises Africa’s last absolute monarch, a strongman who imprisons dissidents like Maseko. Badu joins a rogues gallery of celebrities like
Badu told the Dallas Morning News that the show "was harmless" and that "the people know I was not endorsing the king or helping to further his political agenda.... 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." She also claimed to have given her performance fee to servants in the king's estate.
But on Twitter, her defense turned a bit more pointed. She told HRF's President Thor Halvorssen that "u are being used" and that criticism was "ridiculous and manipulative."
In response to author and activist Pedro Pizano's criticism, Badu replied glibly: "I think that's how KINGDOMS twerk."
Badu claimed that this incident reminds her of the brief hubbub after her nude appearance at Dallas' Dealey Plaza in her video for "Window Seat" in 2010.
"This is an opportunity for groups claiming they are for the rights of humans to shine a spotlight on this situation using me as a tool," she told the Dallas Morning News. "In the end, I love everyone, and I see freedom ahead for those enslaved and the slave masters."