Somali-Canadian singer K’naan was declared best African act at the MOBO Awards in Liverpool, U.K., Wednesday night.

K’naan won in a field that included Angélique Kidjo of Benin, BLK JKS from South Africa, Spain’s Concha Buika and Nigerian duo P-Square. K’naan, who had an international hit with his Wavin’ Flag and performed at the World Cup, often focuses on his Somali heritage in his writing.

The singer, who escaped the war-torn country for Canada when he was a child, believes the world has forgotten about Somalia. ”I understand why. I understand the silence . The difference between early ’90s and now is that Somalia broke America’s heart in the ’90s, that’s literally what happened,” he said in a recent interview.

“After Somalia, it’s the reason why America did not go in to mediate in Rwanda. The result is a million people died.”

The 32-year-old singer said his often melancholy work is a reflection of the contrast between the life he is living as an international star and the plight of friends and family still suffering in Somalia. ”I do most of my work to publicly forgive myself,” he said.

“Somalia’s scenario is that it’s not good left alone, and it’s even worse intervened. That’s the dilemma of Somalia, because we do not accept foreign intervention…. It doesn’t seem like we can fix our own problems either. That’s the tragedy of Somalia,” he said.

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