Grammy award-winning Reggae artist Buju Banton has returned to Belize as the guest of rapper turned Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow.
According to an Instagram post made by Shyne on Tuesday (April 12), the purpose of the Gargamel’s visit wasn’t business. “It is such a pleasure to receive a personal visit in BELIZE from my brother @bujubanton 🙏🏽,” the politician wrote under a photo of them both smiling in front of a private jet.
However, on Monday, 7 News Belize reported that Buju was plugging Shyne as the next Prime Minister of the country, in addition to doing some light shopping at the Michael Finnegan Market.
“It feels tremendously good to be back in Belize, wonderful. But the reason why we are here in Belize this time is much different from the last time we were here in Belize. This time it’s about supporting the next prime minister of Belize, making sure that the masses know that there is a movement that they need to get behind, because it involved all Belizeans for change,” he told the outlet, outside the Market.
Banton last visited Belize in September of 2003 for a concert.
When asked whether it was normal for a Rastafarian to support a politician, Buju responded, “Well, you see, my father King Selassie I was the greatest statesman you know and if we sit on the side-line and let people who all left on us mentally continue doing what they are doing in our region, what world are we going to have for our children.”
“So we got to get us off our asses and get active like the brother is doing inside the region, not only in Belize, but everywhere and be the change that we want to see,” he added.
General elections in Belize are due in 2025.
On Tuesday, the Not An Easy Road singer also dedicated some time to speaking to gang members inside the Jungle Pavilion at Old Belize, amid an uptick in the country’s crime rate. According to Channel News 5 Belize, Buju noted that it was imperative to host the session to encourage the young men to seek better paths for themselves.
“It was a coming together of the young minds who are basically out there needing guidance, hope, trying to understand, seeking to understand from their perspective what’s going on in their minds. How do they see themselves being a change and the change that they want to see? How do they see themselves being stakeholders in this great country, as opposed to furthering or fostering part of a ruined nation for this great nation?” Buju told the media, after the gathering.
The Reggae star also spoke to defying odds such as poverty through his career as a successful entertainer in Jamaica.
“The similarities are stark, you know, poverty is everywhere, hopelessness is everywhere, but we don’t come to dwell on that because I come from poverty and I come from a place of no hope but I rose above these two elements that are manmade, you understand, because you might be poor in material things but you are rich in your spirit which allows the universe to make you happy.”
Besides music and hailing from the Caribbean, both Shyne and Buju also have something else in common— their criminal convictions. Shyne served nearly a decade-long sentence in a United States prison for the part he played in a 1999 club shooting. He was subsequently deported back to Belize in 2009.
Since his return to his home country, Shyne was appointed the country’s Ambassador of Music charged with the sustainable development of the music industry in Belize and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop it.
He was also elected to the Belizean House of Representatives at the 2020 general election.
“Becoming the opposition leader of the House of Representatives is not something I set out to do, necessarily. I was the chief whip before I was opposition leader,” Shyne told Slate in an interview last year. “But when there’s a void in leadership—as was the case recently, where the former leader of the opposition lost confidence of the majority of members in the House and of the party—I am willing to step up. If my colleagues want me to be the leader of the party and take us into the next general elections, that’s what I’ll do.”
Meanwhile, Buju Banton spent time in prison for possession of cocaine, before being released in 2018.
Luckily for Shyne, who is known for tracks such as Bad Boyz, he was granted back his US visa last August, with the help of his former CEO and co-defendant in the Club New York shooting, Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Buju is still without a visa, and this was reiterated by his long-time producer Donovan Germain during an interview with the Jamaica Observer in February. “If he had gotten back his visa, you would all know. Did you see Buju, or Buju Banton being advertised? Those are two different people. As far as I know, he has not gotten back his visa,” he told the Observer at the time.