• ‘There are signs of hope, but we are not waiting with our arms crossed but pushing for reforms that improve our lives’

    Angola saw a change at the top in 2017, when President José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down after a staggering 38 years in power, to be replaced by President Joao Lourenco. His rule was characterised by close control of the nation’s oil wealth, to the benefit of his family and the ruling elite, which necessitated a tight grip on civil society to prevent it exposing corruption and demanding a fairer distribution of wealth. As part of the state’s repression of civil society, in 2015, 15 young activists were arrested and detained for taking part in a group that discussed a book on liberation. The group were held in poor conditions, mistreated and, after an unfair trial, found guilty of rebellion. One of that group, activist and rapper Luaty Beirão, speaks to CIVICUS about what changes may be underway in Angola, and how civil society is trying to engage constructively to seek reform under the new president.

    1. What changed for Angolan civil society in 2017?

    2017 was a very interesting year for us. After six years of struggle aimed at our President, José Eduardo dos Santos - who when we started had been in power for 32 years, and in 2017 marked 38 years in power - he finally did not run for the presidency again. So we have a new president for the first time. I was born under dos Santos, and finally I have a second president.

    It’s the same regime and the same party that has been in power for 42 years, so we were not expecting the new president to act against his predecessors. What dos Santos did towards the end of his term was put his family, especially his children, in very sensitive positions in our economy. His daughter Isabel dos Santos was chair of the national oil company, Sonangol - oil is our main resource - and his son José Filomeno dos Santos managed the US$5 billion sovereign wealth fund. We did not expect the new president to move so swiftly, but in under 90 days he’d sacked Isabel dos Santos and got José Filomeno dos Santos under control: he should not last much longer because he’s recently been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. Two other children - Welwitschia and José Paulinos dos Santos - were in charge of two private companies, Westside and Semba Comunicações, which had a US$30 million contract with the state to run public TV service Channel 2. But now they have lost the contract and Semba Comunicações has closed.

    The new president is also giving some space for judicial and state investigators to track how public money was used. Some cases are starting to arise, including some that affect the former president’s family interests. Isobel dos Santos, the richest woman in Africa, is also being sued abroad. Things are starting to catch up on them really quickly. It is interesting to see the new president allowing this to happen, although it might come back to bite him: it is impossible for him be clean because he has been in government for so many years.

    One of the main reasons why we thought the new president would not do anything is that under the Angolan electoral system we vote for a party, not a candidate for president, and dos Santos remains the president of the ruling party. We expected him to tell party members what to do. We knew there was disruption within the ruling party, but the level of disruption is only now becoming apparent.

    2. How is civil society reacting to these changes and the new opportunities that may open?

    For us, there are signs of hope. The new president’s intentions appear to be good, so we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

    In 2011, we decided that confrontation was the only way to go, because if we tried to do small projects on the side, they would only come and shut us down. We decided that to get our ideas working, we first needed to liberate ourselves from totalitarian rule.

    Now the old president is gone and the new president is showing some openness, so we want to explore the situation and find out how far this openness reaches. Instead of looking for confrontation, as we had to do in the past, we have started to propose ideas, especially on social media. This is because to cast an image of himself as more democratic and open to modern society, the new president has official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, as do the Minister of Communication and the Governor of the capital city, Luanda. So we know they are reading our comments and they know we are there not just to be critical, but that we want to give them the benefit of the doubt. There are things we want to propose and see how they react to them, so we are testing them. I hope this interesting phase we're now in will shift us away from the need that we had before to be confrontational.

    Even huge opponents of the old regime are applauding some of the new president’s initiatives. Hope is rising in Angola. We hope he is wise enough to keep it going longer. I hope he takes in all this positive energy and he finds it contagious and carries on going.

    But we are not just waiting with our arms crossed. We are pushing for reform initiatives and showing the government that we are ready to back its actions if they are going to have positive repercussions in improving our lives and lifting the limitations we suffered from 1975 to 2017.

    3. What changes should take place to show that the new president is serious in seeking reform?

    There are many simple things that can be done, and small steps can keep hope alive. We want to carry on believing. We don't want to be disillusioned.

    The new president should acknowledge the need for a strong civil society, rather than try to co-opt it into government. It would help if civil society actors saw their points of view taken into consideration when major decisions are made. The government should show more openness, for instance by being more present on social media and making live broadcasts of meetings.

    There should be a constitutional reform. The 2010 constitution was designed to suit dos Santos. It gives too many powers to a president that is not even directly elected by the people. The president appoints judges to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Military Court, and these judges report directly to the president, so there is no separation of powers. This needs to change. If the president wants to effect real change, he should reduce his own powers.

    Regarding corruption, the new president should open a public debate and the public should accept that it is useful to know who were guilty of stealing public money and where the money went. But rather than focusing on sending those people to prison, we need to find a way to recover the money and have it invested in Angola.

    We don’t expect the new president to transform the country in two days, but we do want him to show he is willing to listen and put into practice other people’s ideas, to experiment and open up.

    We want to not have to be constantly fighting and confronting the powers that be. It’s exhausting, especially when you get beaten up, you get stitches in your head and you have to spend a year in prison. I would really love to shift my activism. I just want to feel like an active citizen. I want to carry on sharing my thoughts and ideas without being involved in conflict the whole time.

    4. Apart from corruption, what are the major challenges that the new president faces?

    There is urgent need to invest in education and health. Although theoretically we have free access to these public services, in practice that is not the case, and people in the ministries that are supposed to make these services work have stolen money, so we lack basic equipment and supplies. There is need for serious investment, starting with education, which will also help with public health knowledge. We need educated Angolans to manage the country. We are still very reliant on foreign capacities and foreign consultants, who charge huge amounts of money. We should also be developing tourism, but for the time being it is very hard to get visas for Angola.

    Long-term investment is needed. Our national budget for the last 15 years has had double the amount going to security than to education and health. We are not at war and face no military threat. The only explanation for this is that the military control society. In fact, there are three different secret services operating in Angola.

    Holding local elections is another important task for the new president. Local elections have been delayed for over seven years so far, with excuses such as lack of money or the need for a new law that has not been drafted. Of course, the ruling party doesn’t want elections because it risks losing constituencies.

    There are good things going on in this part of the continent. Why can’t we follow the good examples instead of always comparing ourselves to the worst cases?

    5. What role should the international community and civil society play? Do we need to change our approach to Angola?

    When we started our movement in Angola, we were not thinking about finding supporters. We just did it out of urgency. But when you act following your heart and convictions, you draw international attention. Luckily for us, when we landed in prison a worldwide civil society movement advocated on our behalf.

    There are always more things that can be done. But the situation on the ground is so dynamic that it's hard for big structures to follow through and adapt quickly. One of the things big structures need to do is acknowledge their difficulty to adapt and recognise that civil society movements worldwide are becoming increasingly less formalised. On the other hand, for informal groups it is also hard to adjust to the formal ways of access to international civil society organisations. We don't even know the jargon or terminology. We don’t know how a letter to the UN should be structured. There may be a need for capacity building in that regard. It might help if we were shown how to identify and reach out to the right people in the right places, and if we had help in building networks and identifying similarities and parallels that could serve as a basis for dialogue.

    • Civic space in Angola is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating serious restrictions in the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
    • Get in touch with Luaty Beirão through his Facebook page, or follow @LuatyBeirao on Twitter.
  • ANGOLA : « Le parti au pouvoir perçoit les élections locales comme une menace »

    Lisez l'interview originale en portugais ici

    Pascoal Baptistiny 1CIVICUS parle de la situation en Angola avec Pascoal Baptistiny, directeur exécutif de MBAKITA - Kubango Agricultural Benevolent Mission, Inclusion of Technologies and Environment, une organisation de la société civile basée dans la province de Cuando Cubango dans le sud de l’Angola. Fondée en 2002, MBAKITA défend les droits des peuples indigènes et des communautés traditionnelles, dénonce la discrimination dont ils sont victimes et l’expropriation de leurs terres, et promeut une société plus juste, démocratique, participative, tolérante, solidaire, saine et humaine.

    Quel est l’état de l’espace civique en Angola, et quelles sont les principales contraintes auxquelles sont confrontés les activistes angolais ?

    La répression de l’espace civique en Angola est l’un des plus grands défis auxquels la société civile angolaise est confrontée aujourd’hui. Les activistes sont victimes d’arrestations arbitraires et illégales, de tortures et de mauvais traitements, d’enlèvements, d’assassinats, de harcèlement et de disparitions de la part des forces gouvernementales, de la police et des services de renseignement de l’État. Cette répression a rendu de nombreux Angolais attentifs à ce qu’ils disent en public. Les rares organisations qui défendent les droits humains en Angola le font souvent au péril de leur vie personnelle et familiale.

    Pourriez-vous nous parler des restrictions auxquelles vos collègues et vous se sont confrontés en 2020 ?

    En 2020, mes collègues du MBAKITA et moi-même avons dû faire face à des obstacles visant à prévenir, minimiser, perturber et inverser l’impact des activités légitimes de l’organisation qui se concentre sur la critique, la dénonciation et l’opposition aux violations des droits et aux positions, politiques et actions gouvernementales inefficaces.

    Les diverses formes de restriction que nous connaissons comprennent les restrictions et annulations arbitraires de manifestations et de réunions, la surveillance, les menaces, l’intimidation, les représailles et les punitions, les agressions physiques, les campagnes de diffamation qui présentent les membres du MBAKITA comme des « ennemis de l’État » et des mercenaires au service d’intérêts étrangers ; harcèlement judiciaire ; amendes exorbitantes pour l’achat de moyens de transport ; cambriolage de nos bureaux et vol de matériel informatique ; perquisition et saisie de biens ; destruction de véhicules ; privation d’emploi et de revenu ; et interdiction de voyager.

    En outre, 15 activistes ont été arbitrairement détenus et maltraités pendant la campagne de prévention de la COVID-19. Le 1er mai, ma résidence a été envahie et les gardes ont été gazés au lacrymogène. Le 16 novembre, deux activistes ont été violées. Trois de nos activistes et un manifestant ont été tués au cours de l’année.

    Quel genre de travail fait MBAKITA et pourquoi pensez-vous que l’organisation a été tellement attaquée ?

    MBAKITA est une organisation qui défend et promeut les droits humains. Nous travaillons à la promotion, à la protection et à la diffusion des droits humains et des libertés universellement reconnus, en particulier les droits à la liberté de réunion, d’association, de manifestation pacifique, d’expression et de presse, le droit à l’autodétermination des peuples indigènes, les droits à la terre, à une alimentation adéquate, à l’eau potable et à l’environnement, et la lutte contre la torture et les mauvais traitements.

    Nous contestons les violations des droits civils, politiques, économiques, sociaux, culturels et environnementaux des personnes autochtones, ethniques, linguistiques, LGBTQI+, handicapées et migrantes.

    Mon organisation utilise des moyens pacifiques et non violents dans ses activités. Cependant, nous avons été confrontés à des risques incalculables en raison de notre travail en faveur des droits humains dans les provinces du sud de l’Angola. 

    La MBAKITA est systématiquement attaquée pour plusieurs raisons. D’abord parce qu’en 2018, elle a dénoncé la mort de quatre enfants lors de l’opération Transparence, une action contre le trafic de diamants et de migrants sans papiers menée par la police et les forces armées angolaises dans la municipalité de Mavinga, province de Cuando Cubango. Ensuite, parce qu’en 2019, elle a dénoncé le détournement par les gouvernements provinciaux des fonds destinés à soutenir les victimes de la sécheresse dans les provinces du sud de l’Angola. Troisièmement, parce qu’en avril 2019, deux activistes de l’organisation ont dénoncé l’appropriation illégale de terres par des entrepreneurs politiques - généraux, députés et gouverneurs - sur des territoires appartenant aux minorités indigènes San et Kuepe et utilisés pour la chasse, la pêche et la cueillette de fruits sauvages, qui constituent l’alimentation de ces populations. Quatrièmement, parce qu’en février 2020, MBAKITA a dénoncé le détournement de fonds destinés à l’achat de matériel de biosécurité pour la prévention de la COVID-19 et le détournement de nourriture destinée au programme d’aide aux paniers alimentaires de base pour les groupes vulnérables. Cinquièmement, parce que nous avons participé et mené une campagne de sensibilisation sur la COVID-19, qui comprenait la distribution de matériel de biosécurité acheté avec les fonds de MISEREOR-Allemagne. Et enfin, parce que nous avons participé à toutes les manifestations organisées par la société civile angolaise, dont la dernière en date, le 9 janvier 2021, qui portait sur la lutte contre la corruption et la demande d’élections locales sous le slogan « Des élections locales maintenant, 45 ans au pouvoir, c’est trop », et revendiquait le respect des promesses électorales de 500 000 emplois, la réduction du coût de la vie pour les familles et l’inclusion socio-économique des minorités indigènes, entre autres.

    Pourquoi les élections prévues pour 2020 ont-elles été annulées ?

    D’une part, à cause de la pandémie de la COVID-19. Mais à part cette pandémie mortelle, le gouvernement n’a jamais été intéressé par la tenue d’élections locales en 2020. Le parti au pouvoir, le Mouvement Populaire pour la Libération de l’Angola (MPLA), voit les élections locales comme une menace pour le pouvoir central et craint de perdre son emprise sur le pouvoir. Il craint d’introduire un élément de contrôle des électeurs sur les autorités locales, c’est-à-dire la participation des citoyens et le contrôle de la gestion des fonds publics. Le gouvernement pense que le peuple s’éveillera à l’idée de l’État démocratique et de l’État de droit, c’est-à-dire que beaucoup de gens prendront conscience de leurs droits et de leurs devoirs. Cela irait à l’encontre de l’intention du MPLA, qui est de se perpétuer au pouvoir.

    La promesse de démocratie locale en Angola a été un échec. Après trois ans de gouvernement, le président João Lourenço n’a même pas tenu 10 % de ses promesses électorales, laissant 90 % des Angolais dans un état de scepticisme total.

    En Angola, le parti qui est au pouvoir depuis plus de 45 ans ne tolère pas les personnes libres. Aujourd’hui, les défenseurs des droits humains perdent leur emploi, le pain pour leurs enfants, leur carrière et même leur vie s’ils osent être libres, désirer la démocratie et exercer la liberté.

    Quelles sont les perspectives de changement de la situation dans un avenir proche ?

    Pour que la situation change, la société civile a beaucoup de travail à faire. Les actions les plus importantes et les plus urgentes sont l’acquisition d’une formation en sécurité individuelle, institutionnelle et numérique, l’apprentissage de la langue anglaise, l’obtention du statut d’observateur auprès de la Commission africaine des droits humains et des peuples, l’observation et la participation à des manifestations et autres événements publics, la défense et le lobbying pour la légalisation des organisations de défense des droits humains, effectuer des visites de prisons, y compris des entretiens avec des prisonniers et recueillir des preuves de torture, de mauvais traitements et de conditions de détention, observer les procès d’activistes dans les tribunaux inférieurs, collecter des fonds pour assurer la durabilité des activités des défenseurs des droits humains, et surveiller les élections locales de 2021 et les élections générales de 2022.

    De quel type de soutien les activistes angolais ont-ils besoin de la part de la société civile internationale pour poursuivre leur travail ?

    Les besoins sont énormes et variés. Les activistes ont un besoin urgent de protection et de sécurité, notamment d’une formation à l’analyse des risques, à la planification de la sécurité et à la formation aux mécanismes internationaux et régionaux de protection des droits humains, ainsi que de compétences en matière d’enquêtes, de litiges, de documentation, de pétition et de signalement des violations des droits humains. Plus précisément, à MBAKITA, nous aimerions recevoir une assistance technique pour évaluer les dispositifs de sécurité qui pourraient être mis en place pour accroître la protection physique du bureau de l’organisation et de ma résidence, ainsi qu’un soutien financier pour l’achat de ces dispositifs, par exemple pour l’achat d’un système de sécurité ou d’une caméra de surveillance vidéo.

    Les activistes agressés, et en particulier les 15 activistes du MBAKITA qui ont été directement victimes de la répression et de la torture aux mains des forces gouvernementales, ont également besoin d’une assistance psychologique post-traumatique. L’aide financière nous aiderait à payer les honoraires des avocats qui ont travaillé à la libération de six activistes emprisonnés entre août et novembre 2020. Elle nous aiderait également à remplacer les équipements de travail volés, sans lesquels notre capacité de travail a été réduite : deux véhicules, des ordinateurs, des cartes mémoire, un appareil photo numérique et une caméra vidéo.

    Pour les activistes menacés de détention arbitraire, d’enlèvement ou d’assassinat, qui n’ont d’autre choix que de quitter rapidement le pays ou leur région d’origine, nous avons besoin d’une aide au transport et au logement. Nos activistes bénéficieraient également d’échanges d’expériences, de connaissances et de bonnes pratiques, pour renforcer leurs connaissances en matière de sécurité numérique, et pour se former aux techniques journalistiques et audiovisuelles et à la langue anglaise.

    Enfin, le fonctionnement des organisations et leur pérennité gagneraient à obtenir un soutien pour l’installation de services internet et la création de sites web sécurisés, et l’acquisition de logiciels de gestion financière et de ressources pour le recrutement de personnel stable, capable de subvenir aux besoins de sa famille et de se consacrer pleinement à la défense des droits humains.

    L’espace civique en Angola est classé comme « répressif » par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contactez MBAKITA via leur pageFacebook. 

  • Angola decriminalises homosexuality

    Angola has officially decriminalised same-sex relationships and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. LGBTQI+ advocacy lead for CIVICUS, Mawethu Nkosana spoke with eNCA's Sally Burdett on Angola's repeal of Anti-gay law.

  • ANGOLA: ‘Chances for real democracy in Angola are quite low’



    CIVICUS speaks about the recent presidential and National Assembly election in Angola with Pascoal Baptistiny, Executive Director of MBAKITA – Kubango Agricultural Benevolent Mission, Inclusion, Technologies and the Environment.  MBAKITA is a civil society organisation based in Cuando Cubango province in southern Angola. Founded in 2002, it defends the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities, denounces the discrimination they suffer and the expropriation of their lands, and promotes a more just, democratic, participatory, tolerant, supportive, healthy and humane society.

    What was the political climate in the run-up to the recent election in Angola?

    The political climate was veryunfavourable, not at all conducive to a free and fair election. Angola was alreadycharacterised by heavy restrictions on civic space, and this worsened in the run-up to the 24 August election.

    Civic space has been long marked by persecution, intimidation, threats, arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment, slander, defamation, censorship, intolerance and ordered killings. Protests are often banned and frequently repressed, sometimes with lethal violence.

    Restrictions tightened before the election and were maintained during the voting and in the aftermath, to prevent protests at suspected fraud. Rapid Intervention Police, State Secret Information Services, Public Order Police, Migration and Foreigners Services, Border Guard Police, Criminal Investigation Services and the Attorney General's Office were all deployed in the streets of Angola’s 18 provinces.

  • ANGOLA: ‘Much effort was put into excluding people from the electoral process’


    CIVICUS speaks about the recent Angolan election and its aftermath with Catarina Antunes Gomes and Cesaltina Abreu from the Social Sciences and Humanities Laboratory of the Catholic University of Angola (LAB). LAB works closely with Civic Movement Mudei (‘I changed’ in Portuguese), a movement of multiple civil society organisations (CSOs) that advocate for democratic change in Angola. It campaigns for voting rights and fair conditions of electoral competition, including transparent funding, equitable media coverage and citizen monitoring of election processes.

    Angola interview thumbnail

     What kinds of civic space restrictions did Angolan civil society encounter during the election?

    Civil society has faced many constraints before, during and after the election. Prior to the election, there was a partial review of the constitution that was done without any consultation and did not follow the recommendations of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The organic law on general elections was also amended without the participation of civil society or the political opposition, and it resulted in reduced electoral transparency. Key stakeholders were denied a platform to be part of the process.

    A few months before the election, the government also decided to change Angola’s political and administrative division, with potential impact on the drawing of electoral districts. Although it did not follow through with this reform, this caused great confusion and gave rise to suspicions about the intentions of the ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the credibility of the election.

    In 2021 President João Lourenço appointed Laurinda Cardoso, a member of the MPLA’s political bureau, as chief judge of the Constitutional Court. Civil society also raised concerns about the appointment and swearing in of Manuel Pereira da Silva as the new president of the National Electoral Commission. But our voices have been overlooked during the whole process.

    The media situation has also been very precarious. Since the start of the electoral process, state intervention has increased, even in private media. Mudei monitored the media coverage of various parties and candidates from May until July and found that both public and private media had become instruments of propaganda, undermining the right to freedom of information and free choice.

    On 6 July, just as the electoral campaign was about to begin, a new law was proposed to prohibit surveys and posts revealing voting choices. Instead of ensuring people were fully included in the electoral process, much effort was put into excluding them.

    As a result, the level of transparency and fairness of the 24 August election has been dubious to say the least. It has been questioned by civil society through many public statements. The organisations we work with, Mudei and LAB, have produced a statementindicating they do not consider the elections to have been transparent, fair and free.

    What do you think contributed to low voter turnout?

    There were probably many reasons why fewer than half of registered voters went to the polls, but we believe major ones were disorganisation, fear and lack of trust.

    The whole process was badly organised. In September 2021 there was an ‘unofficial electoral registration’ period, which is really a process of connecting databases to determine who is eligible to vote, but it was not made clear to people what this was about. Most people were confused about what the law said on residency and voting. The process was marked by lack of clarity and irregularities. Everything seemed too complicated so many lost interest. Many people were excluded as a result.

    People were also afraid. The electoral campaign should be a time when candidates share their ideas with us, debate their parties’ proposals and tell us their thoughts about Angola’s future. But this was not what happened. The ruling party had a strong negative discourse, treating the other parties as enemies rather than adversaries. They didn’t present any ideas on how to make the country progress and what they published as their political programme was of very low quality.

    Staying away from the polls can also be interpreted as a form of protest. We have done a lot of comparative electoral analysis and found that protest voting has increased in Angola through the years. This is the result of people’s complete lack of faith in political institutions, given their limited democratic character and lack of transparency. This year the protest vote rose even further.

    How has the Angolan government reacted to civil society’s criticisms of electoral irregularities?

    The government has responded with repression. There are two situations that we would like to share with CIVICUS and other international allies so they can help us by providing visibility, pressuring human rights international bodies and offering support in the form of capacity-building and funding for human rights activists and social movements in Angola.

    The first situation concerns Pascoal Baptistiny, executive director of MBAKITA, a CSO that promotes the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities in the province of Cuando Cubango in southern Angola. Pascoal has expressed concerns about the election, including in an interview with CIVICUS last year. This made him a target. He was put under surveillance and has recently requested our help to evacuate his family to Luanda, Angola’s capital, because he has been threatened and is afraid for their safety.

    The second situation concerns several members of Mudei, including its coordinator, who has been threatened repeatedly. Another of our colleagues, who was an independent candidate, has been mentioned in aggressive articles and social media posts along with an official from the European Union delegation in Luanda. They are attacked as part of a supposed subversive conspiracy involving powerful international interests aiming at destabilising Angola.

    The feeling of oppression has been increasing. The Angolan army has been put on high alert, allegedly to prevent attacks. But how would unarmed civilians be able to attack them? That is clearly an excuse; their presence is threatening and intimidating. We urge the international community to publicly denounce what our government is doing to people and act to protect civil society activists who continue to work regardless and face threats and violence as a result.

    Civic space in Angola is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Mudei through itsFacebook page,and follow@MovCivicoMudei on Twitter.

  • ANGOLA: ‘The new NGO Law is just a way of legalising the government’s arrogance and excesses’


    GodinhoCristovaoCIVICUS discusses the state of civic space and the new restrictions being imposed on the work of Angolan civil society with Godinho Cristóvão, a jurist, human rights defender and executive director of the association Movimento de Defensores de Direitos Humanos de Angola (Movement of Human Rights Defenders of Angola, KUTAKESA).

    KUTAKESA is a civil society organisation (CSO) working for the rights and protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Angola, particularly those active in more vulnerable areas, working on more sensitive issues and from historically excluded groups.

    What are the current conditions for civil society in Angola?

    Angolan CSOs work in a climate of suspicion and uncertainty, despite the fact that the Constitution of the Republic of Angola enshrines a catalogue of citizens’ fundamental rights, freedoms and guarantees.

    The Angolan authorities should have aligned themselves with the democratic rule of law and respected the work of CSOs and HRDs. Instead, there has been an increase in threats, harassment and illegal arrests of HRDs who denounce or hold peaceful demonstrations against acts of bad governance and violations of citizens’ rights and freedoms. There have been clear setbacks with regard to the guarantee of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, as well as the rights set out in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties Angola has ratified.

    How is the government targeting civil society with restrictive legislation?

    The attacks on civil society are totally uncalled for. On 25 May, the Angolan National Assembly passed a draft NGO Statute, despite severe criticism from CSOs, which have stated that it limits freedom of association and gives the state excessive powers to interfere with CSO activities.

    The government targets civil society with legislation that is meant for terrorists and money launderers, though it has never been proven in any court that a CSO has committed an act of terrorism in Angola. On the contrary, the rationale of this legislation constitutes institutional terrorism, the target of which are CSOs.

    In Angola we all know who the corrupt are, and which party feeds corruption and money laundering. And as far as we know, CSOs are not part of that group. Funders of Angolan CSOs are all clearly identified, and the transfer of funds goes through national banking institutions and a rigorous compliance process. It is also worth remembering that many CSO funders are the same ones that fund government projects.

    How does the new restrictive law compare with the 2015 decree that was declared unconstitutional?

    In general, the content and spirit of Presidential Decree 74/15 on the Regulation of NGOs are the same as those of the new NGO Statute Law. By way of example, the rights and duties chapter of the previous regulation, later declared unconstitutional, was retained with only minimal changes in wording that in no way alter its content and its controlling and repressive spirit.

    Additionally, the decree that was found unconstitutional provided for an administrative body under the tutelage of the Angolan executive – called IMPROCAC – with the power to monitor and control CSO actions. The recently approved draft NGO Statute Law provides for a similar body with the same attributions as the old IMPROCAC.

    In other words, this is a new attempt to impose similar restrictions, but it is more serious since its instrument is no longer a presidential decree but a law. This means that it is no longer only the executive that is attacking the principles of autonomy and freedom of association provided for in article 48 of the constitution, but Congress as well, in which the president’s party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), has a majority. It is worth remembering that it was the MPLA majority that approved the 2010 constitution which it is now violating by passing the NGO Statute Law.

    How is civil society, including KUTAKESA, reacting to the proposed law?

    CSOs, at least the most active ones, are not looking favourably on the approval of this law, given the threats it represents in terms of closing off civic space in Angola.

    We are taking joint action to prevent the final approval of this law and its entry into force. From the point of view of legal certainty and security, the courts should be aligned with the principle of jurisprudential precedent. Since they submitted the presidential decree to a review of unconstitutionality and declared it unconstitutional, they should now follow suit, given that the new law contains the same irregularities.

    All national organisations took a joint position to call on parliament to take off the agenda the law now approved. This was done through information exchange meetings with opposition parties represented in parliament. At the same time we made public statements alerting the public about the dangers for freedom of association if the law was approved, and we made urgent appeals to the special rapporteurs of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations (UN) who have a mandate on freedom of association and HRDs to alert the Angolan government about the consequences the law will have on respect for human rights.

    On KUTAKESA’s part, urgent appeals were made to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Remy Ngoy Lumbu, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor.

    Do you see the new law as part of a wider trend to restrict civic space?

    Yes of course, but it is also important to note that the repression of peaceful and legal demonstrations predates the approval of this law. Government mismanagement and endemic corruption have been some of the main causes of the deteriorating social, economic and family conditions for the majority of the population, leading to growing protests and mass demonstrations, which have often been repressed. The approval of this law is just another means of repression and of legalising the arrogance and excesses of the government and its agents, particularly the national police.

    While the law is not necessarily intended as a response to the ongoing protests, given that the attempt to get it passed dates back to 2015, it is likely to be used as another tool to crack down on the protests.

    Now, if the government has good sense and makes a strategic reading of the current political and social context of Angola, it could stop the process of approval of the law or, if it is too late for that, the president could refuse to promulgate it, taking the appeals of civil society into consideration. The law’s approval would certainly increase the number of protests and demonstrations.

    Civic space in Angola is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with KUTAKESA through theirwebsite.

  • ANGOLA: ‘The untrue government narrative reveals an aversion to civil society denouncing malpractice’


    Emilio Jose Manuel

    CIVICUS discusses the state of civic space and the new restrictions being imposed on civil society in Angola with Emilio José Manuel, focal point for Angola of the Lusophone Platform for Human Rights and founding member of the Working Group for Human Rights Monitoring in Angola (GTMDH).

    The GTMDH is a platform of civil society organisations (CSOs) that works to promote and defend human rights and strives for social justice within the framework of the Angolan constitution and other current laws, as well as international conventions and treaties.

    What are the conditions for civil society in Angola?

    Although there is currently no direct or indirect interference in the work of civil society in Angola, the authorities’ discourse is that, because they receive funding from international institutions, CSOs defend and represent foreign interests.

    Meanwhile there are many joint actions between public institutions and CSOs. For example, once a year the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights organises a forum with CSOs where the GTMDH presents its public position on human rights and provides information on the granting of registration certificates, the legal documents that the Angolan state gives to each CSO attesting that it is legally registered and can operate in the country.

    Why is the government targeting CSOs with legislation aimed at terrorists and money launderers?

    According to the report supporting the draft law, the president considers that he has ‘encountered constraints and difficulties in ensuring compliance with international obligations assumed by the Angolan Government in the area of money laundering and the financing of terrorism’. Hence the need to control the sources and destination of CSO funds.

    This narrative of the Angolan government is untrue and clearly demonstrates its aversion to the role of CSOs in monitoring and denouncing government malpractice. Financial support for the projects of CSOs and human rights defenders comes from well-identified organisations and goes through banking institutions with strict compliance rules – and some of these funders are the same ones that support government projects.

    On 26 May, the draft NGO Statute Law was passed in general by the Angolan National Assembly, ignoring severe criticism from civil society, which has made clear that it limits the right of association and gives the executive excessive powers to interfere in CSO activities.

    The situation is very alarming because the draft law imposes a 120-day period for existing CSOs to make their statutes conform with the law, otherwise they will be outlawed outright without a judicial decision. Article 2 of the draft law requires existing CSOs to conform with the new provisions, under penalty of having their statutes and registrations revoked. This is a violation of the principle of legality and access to justice guaranteed by the Angolan constitution. The principle of legality requires that the law should be clearly articulated and known in advance and should not be applied retroactively.

    How has civil society reacted to the draft law?

    Civil society analysed the draft law and reacted against it. In collaboration with the GTMDH coordinator, my role as legal officer was to prepare petitions, public position papers and communications with the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, and to engage with regional and international partners to amplify the voices of Angolan civil society.

    We requested a technical opinion from UN Special Rapporteur Clément Voule and drafted a public civil society position on the bill explaining why it violates freedoms of association, which we presented publicly at a press conference.

    We advocated with opposition parties represented in parliament and made contacts with the Angolan Bar Association to file, within the scope of our constitutional prerogatives, the appropriate action for an assessment of the unconstitutionality of the draft law. The day before the general approval of the draft law, we sent a public petition to the National Assembly demanding that it not approve it.

    Our next action will be to send a letter to the presidents of some key countries about the closure of civic space in Angola and increasing controls over CSOs, including international CSOs.

    Protests are also taking place against the proposed NGO Statute Law, which have converged with protests against measures that have increased fuel prices and a crackdown on street vendors.

    Do you see this bill as part of a wider trend of restricting civic space?

    The recent repression of demonstrations, arrests of activists and attacks on protesters, including women, is an indicator that civic space is being severely restricted. The use of force by the national police has resulted in deaths without any appropriate process to hold to account and punish police officers involved in cases of violence, torture and killings.

    Our country depends on importing food staples and other goods from abroad. Right now the prices of food, other goods and services have increased. Street vendors are a group that some CSOs work with, particularly those dedicated to empowering women to establish small businesses. Some organisations provide micro credits to street vendors. Although the street vendors’ movement has a life of its own, it is CSOs and their lawyers who have provided them with free legal aid.

    There is a current of national solidarity, taking into account that the law does not explicitly say it will regulate all initiatives by citizens who wish to create an association. My personal opinion is that everyone feels that control will go further. The draft NGO Statute Law lacks a clear definition of what a ‘non-governmental organisation’ is. It also includes vague provisions that need to be better fleshed out to enable the proper interpretation of the law. For example, it is difficult to understand the meaning and normative scope of article 19(1)(d), which imposes a ‘duty on NGOs to refrain from practices and actions that are subversive or liable to be confused with them’. The unanswered question here is how subversive actions are to be defined in the context of the law.

    How does the new draft law compare with the 2015 decree that was deemed unconstitutional?

    According to the analysis we’ve made, the arguments and contents are the same as in Decree 74/15 on the Regulation of NGOs. We have the new role of counselling judges in the Constitutional Court. The situation in the Supreme Court indicates that we have a crisis in the judiciary. So it is uncertain whether this time the judicial decision will be in favour of CSOs. The present draft law establishes rules to control, restrict, approve, authorise and suspend the activities of CSOs, including CSO extinction by an administrative entity to be determined by the president as holder of the executive power, which violates the principle of freedom of association as provided in article 48 of the constitution.

    Do you view the draft NGO Statute Law as part of a regional or global trend?

    After having participated in sessions of the NGO Forum and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, I noted a tendency to restrict civic space throughout Africa. As part of the civil society strategy, we held meetings with activists from Mozambique to share experiences and assemble regional, continental and international strategies. It is worth remembering that various activists, whether linked to CSOs or not, are directly involved in campaigns and waves of protest to try to ensure that the draft law is not given final approval by parliament and promulgated by the president.

    Civic space in Angola is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contact GTMDH through itswebsite.

  • ANGOLA: “El partido en el poder ve a las elecciones locales como una amenaza”

    Acceda a la entrevista original en portugués aquí

    Pascoal Baptistiny 1CIVICUS conversa acerca de la situación en Angola con Pascoal Baptistiny, Director Ejecutivo de MBAKITA - Misión Benéfica Agrícola de Kubango, Inclusión de Tecnologías y Medio Ambiente, una organización de la sociedad civil con sede en la provincia de Cuando Cubango, en el sur de Angola. Fundada en 2002, MBAKITA defiende los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y las comunidades tradicionales, denuncia la discriminación que padecen y la expropiación de sus tierras, y promueve una sociedad más justa, democrática, participativa, tolerante, solidaria, sana y humana.


    ¿Cuál es el estado del espacio cívico en Angola, y cuáles son las principales limitaciones que enfrentan los activistas angoleños?

    La represión del espacio cívico en Angola es uno de los mayores retos a los que se enfrenta la sociedad civil angoleña en la actualidad. Los activistas sufren detenciones arbitrarias e ilegales, torturas y malos tratos, secuestros, asesinatos, acoso y desapariciones por parte de las fuerzas gubernamentales, la policía y los servicios de inteligencia del Estado. Esta represión ha hecho que muchos angoleños tengan cuidado con lo que dicen en público. Las pocas organizaciones que defienden los derechos humanos en Angola a menudo lo hacen asumiendo grandes riesgos personales y familiares.

    ¿Podría contarnos sobre las restricciones que usted y sus colegas enfrentaron en 2020?

    En 2020, mis colegas de MBAKITA y yo enfrentamos obstáculos destinados a impedir, minimizar, interrumpir y revertir el impacto de las actividades legítimas de la organización, centradas en la crítica, la denuncia y la oposición a las violaciones de derechos y a las posiciones, políticas y acciones gubernamentales ineficaces.

    Entre las diversas formas de restricción que experimentamos se cuentan las restricciones y cancelaciones arbitrarias de manifestaciones y reuniones; la vigilancia; las amenazas, la intimidación, las represalias y los castigos; las agresiones físicas; las campañas de difamación que presentan a los miembros de MBAKITA como “enemigos del Estado” y mercenarios al servicio de intereses extranjeros; el acoso judicial; las multas exorbitantes para la adquisición de medios de transporte; robos en nuestras oficinas y la sustracción de equipos informáticos; el registro y la confiscación de bienes; la destrucción de vehículos; la privación de empleo e ingresos; y la prohibición de viajar.

    Además, 15 activistas fueron detenidos arbitrariamente y sometidos a malos tratos durante la campaña de prevención del COVID-19. El 1º de mayo mi residencia fue invadida y los guardias fueron atacados con gases lacrimógenos. El 16 de noviembre, dos activistas fueron violadas. Entre las víctimas fatales del año se cuentan tres de nuestros activistas y un manifestante.

    ¿Qué tipo de trabajo realiza MBAKITA? ¿Por qué cree que la organización ha sido atacada?

    MBAKITA es una organización que defiende y promueve los derechos humanos. Trabajamos para promover, proteger y difundir los libertades y derechos humanos universalmente reconocidos, y especialmente los derechos a las libertades de reunión, asociación, manifestación pacífica, expresión y prensa, el derecho a la autodeterminación de los pueblos indígenas, los derechos a la tierra, a una alimentación adecuada, al agua potable y al medio ambiente, y la lucha contra la tortura y los malos tratos.

    Cuestionamos las violaciones de los derechos civiles, políticos, económicos, sociales, culturales y medioambientales de las personas indígenas, étnicas, lingüísticas, LGBTQI+, con discapacidades y migrantes.

    Mi organización utiliza medios pacíficos y no violentos en sus actividades. Sin embargo, hemos enfrentado riesgos incalculables como consecuencia de nuestro trabajo de derechos humanos en las provincias del sur de Angola. 

    MBAKITA es atacada sistemáticamente por varias razones. Primero, porque en 2018 denunció la muerte de cuatro niños durante la Operación Transparencia, una acción contra el tráfico de diamantes y inmigrantes indocumentados llevada a cabo por la policía y las fuerzas armadas angoleñas en el municipio de Mavinga, provincia de Cuando Cubango. En segundo lugar, porque en 2019 denunció el desvío de fondos destinados a apoyar a las víctimas de la sequía en las provincias del sur de Angola por parte de los gobiernos provinciales. Tercero, porque en abril de 2019, dos activistas de la organización denunciaron la apropiación ilegal de tierras por parte de empresarios políticos -generales, diputados y gobernadores- en territorios pertenecientes a las minorías indígenas San y Kuepe y utilizados para la caza, pesca y recolección de frutos silvestres, que constituyen la dieta de estas poblaciones. Cuarto, porque en febrero de 2020 MBAKITA denunció el desvío de fondos destinados a la compra de material de bioseguridad para la prevención del COVID-19 y el desvío de alimentos destinados al Programa de Asistencia a la Canasta Básica para Grupos Vulnerables. En quinto lugar, porque participamos y llevamos a cabo una campaña de sensibilización sobre el COVID-19, que incluyó la distribución de material de bioseguridad adquirido con fondos de MISEREOR-Alemania. Y, finalmente, porque participamos en todas las manifestaciones realizadas por la sociedad civil angoleña, incluida la más reciente, que tuvo lugar el 9 de enero de 2021, centradas en la lucha contra la corrupción y la exigencia de elecciones locales bajo el lema “Elecciones locales ya, ¡45 años en el poder es mucho!” y del cumplimiento de las promesas electorales de 500.000 puestos de trabajo, la reducción del costo de vida para las familias y la inclusión socioeconómica de las minorías indígenas, entre otras.

    ¿Por qué se cancelaron las elecciones previstas para 2020?

    Por un lado, por la pandemia de COVID-19. Pero al margen de esta pandemia mortal, el gobierno nunca ha estado interesado en celebrar elecciones locales en 2020. El partido en el poder, el Movimiento Popular para la Liberación de Angola (MPLA), ve a las elecciones locales como una amenaza para el poder central y teme perder el control del poder. Tiene miedo de introducir un elemento de control de los votantes sobre los gobiernos locales, es decir, de participación y control de la ciudadanía sobre la gestión de los fondos públicos. El gobierno piensa que el pueblo despertará a la idea del Estado democrático y el Estado de derecho, es decir, que mucha gente ganará conciencia de sus derechos y deberes. Esto atentaría contra la intención del MPLA, que es perpetuarse en el poder.

    La promesa de la democracia local en Angola ha sido un fracaso. A tres años de gobierno, el presidente João Lourenço no ha cumplido ni el 10% de sus promesas electorales, dejando al 90% de los angoleños en estado de total escepticismo.

    En Angola, el partido que está en el poder desde hace más de 45 años no tolera a las personas libres. Hoy en día, los y las defensoras de derechos humanos pierden puestos de trabajo, pierden el pan para sus hijos, pierden sus carreras e incluso pierden sus vidas si se atreven a ser libres, a desear la democracia y a ejercer la libertad.

    ¿Qué perspectivas hay de que la situación cambie en un futuro próximo?

    Para que la situación cambie, la sociedad civil tiene mucho trabajo por hacer. Las acciones más importantes y urgentes son la adquisición de formación en seguridad individual, institucional y digital, el aprendizaje del idioma inglés, la obtención de estatus de observador ante la Comisión Africana de derechos humanos y de los pueblos, la observación y participación en manifestaciones y otros actos públicos, la incidencia y el cabildeo para la legalización de las organizaciones de derechos humanos, la realización de visitas a las cárceles, incluyendo entrevistas con los presos y la recopilación de pruebas de las torturas, malos tratos y condiciones penitenciarias, la observación de los juicios contra activistas en los tribunales inferiores, la recaudación de fondos para la sostenibilidad de las actividades de las personas defensoras de derechos humanos, y el monitoreo de las elecciones locales de 2021 y de las elecciones generales de 2022.

    ¿Qué tipo de apoyo necesitan los y las activistas angoleñas de parte de la sociedad civil internacional para poder continuar haciendo su trabajo?

    Las necesidades son enormes y muy variadas. Los y las activistas necesitan urgentemente protección y seguridad, lo que incluye formación en análisis de riesgos, elaboración de planes de seguridad y formación en mecanismos internacionales y regionales de protección de los derechos humanos, así como técnicas para investigar, litigar, documentar, presentar peticiones y denunciar violaciones de los derechos humanos. En concreto, en MBAKITA nos gustaría recibir asistencia técnica para evaluar qué dispositivos de seguridad se podrían implementar para aumentar la protección física de la oficina de la organización y de mi residencia, así como apoyo financiero para la compra de dichos dispositivos, por ejemplo para la adquisición de un sistema de seguridad o una cámara de videovigilancia.

    Los activistas agredidos, y especialmente los 15 activistas de MBAKITA que han sido víctimas directas de represión y tortura a manos de las fuerzas gubernamentales, también necesitan asistencia psicológica postraumática. La ayuda financiera nos ayudaría a pagar los honorarios de los abogados que trabajaron por la liberación de seis activistas que fueron encarcelados entre agosto y noviembre de 2020. También nos ayudaría a reponer el equipo de trabajo robado, sin el cual nuestra capacidad de trabajo se ha visto reducida: dos vehículos, ordenadores, tarjetas de memoria, cámara digital y videocámara.

    Para los activistas amenazados de detención arbitraria, secuestro o asesinato, que no tienen otra opción que abandonar rápidamente el país o su región de origen, necesitamos apoyo para el transporte y la estadía. Nuestros activistas también se beneficiarían de intercambios de experiencias, conocimientos y buenas prácticas, para reforzar sus conocimientos sobre seguridad digital, y para formarse en técnicas periodísticas y audiovisuales y en el aprendizaje del inglés.

    Por último, el funcionamiento de las organizaciones y su sostenibilidad se beneficiarían de la obtención de apoyos para la instalación de servicios de internet y la creación de páginas web seguras, la adquisición de programas informáticos de gestión financiera y recursos para la contratación de personal estable, en condiciones de mantener a sus familias y dedicarse plenamente a la defensa de los derechos humanos.

    El espacio cívico en Angola es clasificado como “represivo” por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese con MBAKITA a través de su página deFacebook.


  • ANGOLA: “The ruling party sees local elections as a threat”

    View the original interview in Portuguese here

    Pascoal Baptistiny 1CIVICUS speaks about the situation in Angola with Pascoal Baptistiny, Executive Director of MBAKITA  – Kubango Agricultural Benevolent Mission, Inclusion, Technologies and the Environment, a civil society organisation based in the Cuando Cubango province in southern Angola. Founded in 2002, MBAKITA defends the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities, denounces the discrimination they suffer and the expropriation of their lands, and promotes a more just, democratic, participatory, tolerant, supportive, healthy and humane society.

    What is the state of civic space in Angola, and what are the main constraints faced by Angolan activists?

    The repression of civic space in Angola is one of the biggest challenges facing Angolan civil society today. Activists suffer arbitrary and illegal arrests, torture and ill-treatment, abductions, killings, harassment and disappearances by government forces, police and state intelligence services. This repression has made many Angolans careful about what they say in public. The few organisations that defend human rights in Angola often do so at great risk to the activists involved and their families.

    Could you tell us about the restrictions you and your colleagues faced in 2020?

    In 2020, my MBAKITA colleagues and I faced obstacles aimed at preventing, minimising, disrupting and reversing the impact of our organisation’s legitimate activities that focused on criticising, denouncing and opposing rights violations and ineffective government positions, policies and actions.

    The various forms of restriction we experienced included arbitrary restrictions and the interruption of demonstrations and meetings; surveillance; threats, intimidation, reprisals and punishments; physical assaults; smear campaigns portraying MBAKITA members as ‘enemies of the state’ and mercenaries serving foreign interests; judicial harassment; exorbitant fines for the purchase of means of transport; burglary of our offices and theft of computer equipment; search and seizure of property; destruction of vehicles; the deprivation of employment and income; and travel bans.

    In addition, 15 activists were arbitrarily detained and ill-treated during the COVID-19 prevention campaign. On 1 May my residence was invaded, and its guards were teargassed. On 16 November, two female activists were raped. Fatalities for the year included three of our activists and one protester.

    What kind of work does MBAKITA do? Why do you think it has been targeted?

    MBAKITA is an organisation that defends and promotes human rights. We work to promote, protect and disseminate universally recognised human rights and freedoms, and especially the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, the freedom of the press, the right to self-determination by Indigenous peoples, the rights to land, adequate food, clean water and the environment, and the fight against torture and ill-treatment.

    We challenge violations of the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of Indigenous and migrant people, ethnic and linguistic minorities, LGBTQI+ people and people with disabilities.

    My organisation uses peaceful and non-violent means in its activities. However, we have faced incalculable risks as a result of our human rights work in the southern provinces of Angola.

    MBAKITA has been systematically attacked for several reasons. First, because in 2018 we denounced the death of four children during Operation Transparency, an action against diamond trafficking and undocumented migrants carried out by the Angolan police and armed forces in the municipality of Mavinga, in the Cuando Cubango province. Second, because in 2019 we denounced the diversion of funds intended to support drought victims in Angola’s southern provinces by provincial governments. Third, because in April 2019, two activists of the organisation denounced the illegal appropriation of land by political businesspeople – generals, legislators and governors – in territories belonging to the San and Kuepe Indigenous minorities and used for hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruits, which make up the diet of these groups. Fourth, because in February 2020 MBAKITA denounced the diversion of funds designated for the purchase of biosecurity products for the prevention of COVID-19 and the diversion of food destined for the Basic Food Basket Assistance Programme for Vulnerable Groups. Fifth, because we participated in and conducted an awareness-raising campaign on COVID-19, which included the distribution of biosecurity materials purchased with MISEREOR-Germany funds. And finally, because we participated in all demonstrations held by Angolan civil society, including the most recent one on 9 January 2021, focused on the fight against corruption and the demand for local elections, under the slogan ‘Local elections now, 45 years in power is too long!’ and for the fulfilment of various electoral promises, including those of 500,000 jobs, the reduction of the cost of living for families and the socio-economic inclusion of Indigenous minorities.

    Why were the elections scheduled for 2020 cancelled?

    For one thing, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But aside from this deadly pandemic, the government was never interested in holding local elections in 2020. The ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), sees local elections as a threat to central power and fears losing its grip on power. It fears introducing an element of voter control over local government, that is, citizen participation and control over the management of public funds. The government thinks that the people will wake up to the idea of the democratic state and the rule of law, and that many people will become aware of their rights and duties. This would run counter to the MPLA’s intention, which is to perpetuate itself in power.

    The promise of local democracy in Angola has been a failure. Three years into his term in office, President João Lourenço has failed to deliver even 10 per cent of his electoral promises, leaving 90 per cent of Angolans in a state of total scepticism.

    In Angola, the party that has been in power for more than 45 years does not tolerate free people. Today, human rights defenders lose their jobs, are unable to feed their children, lose their careers and even their lives if they dare to be free, to desire democracy and to exercise their freedom.

    What are the prospects that the situation will change in the near future?

    For the situation to change, civil society has a lot of work to do. The most important and urgent actions are acquiring training in individual, institutional and digital security, learning English, obtaining observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, observing and participating in demonstrations and other public events, advocating and lobbying for the legalisation of human rights organisations, conducting prison visits, including interviews with prisoners and gathering evidence of torture, ill-treatment and imprisonment conditions, observing trials of activists in the lower courts, fundraising for the sustainability of human rights defenders’ activities, and monitoring the 2021 local elections and the 2022 general elections.

    What kind of support do Angolan activists need from international civil society to be able to continue their work?

    Needs are enormous and varied. Activists urgently need protection and security, including training in risk analysis, security planning and international and regional human rights protection mechanisms, as well as skills in investigating, litigating, documenting, petitioning and reporting human rights violations. Specifically, MBAKITA would like to receive technical assistance to assess what security arrangements could be put in place to increase the physical protection of the organisation’s office and my residence, as well as financial support for the purchase of such arrangements, such as a security system or a video surveillance camera.

    Assaulted activists, and especially the 15 MBAKITA activists who have been direct victims of repression and torture at the hands of government forces, also need post-traumatic psychological assistance. Financial assistance would help us pay the fees of the lawyers who worked for the release of six activists who were imprisoned between August and November 2020. It would also help us replace stolen work equipment, without which our ability to work has been reduced, including two vehicles, computers, memory cards, a digital camera and a camcorder.

    In the case of activists threatened with arbitrary detention, kidnapping or assassination, who have no choice but to leave the country or their region of origin quickly, we need support for transportation and provisional accommodation. Our activists would also benefit from exchanges of experience, knowledge and good practice, opportunities to strengthen their knowledge of digital security, training in journalistic and audio-visual techniques and the acquisition of English language skills.

    Finally, the operation of organisations and their sustainability would be helped by obtaining support for the installation of internet services and the creation of secure websites, the acquisition of financial management software and resources to recruit permanent staff, so that staff members are able to support their families and fully dedicate themselves to the defence of human rights.

    Civic space in Angola is rated ‘repressed’ by thehere.
    Get in touch with MBAKITA through itsFacebook page.


  • Angola: Repressive restrictions include arrest of protesters

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Angola's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below

    CIVICUS welcomes Angola’s acceptance of 14 recommendations focusing on civic space in this UPR cycle. However, in our UPR submission, we documented that since its last review, Angola has not implemented or taken any concrete steps to implement 19 of the 20 recommendations relating to civic space made in 2014. 

    Several pieces of restrictive legislation that in the past have been used against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and journalists critical of the government, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and restrictions under Law 23/10 on Crimes against the Security of the State, remain in place. 

    Additionally, we are concerned about restrictions on peaceful assembly, notably the arrest of protesters. More than ten people and two journalists were briefly arrested in front of Angola’s National Assembly in Luanda in January 2020 in a protest against the delay in the approval of the municipal legislative package. 

    In April 2018, the District Court of Malanje sentenced three student protesters to prison sentences of five to six months on charges of insult of public authorities and disturbance of the functioning of sovereign bodies, the latter a crime against state security. The three were released in July 2018, after a ruling of the Supreme Court.

    Civic space in parts of Angola, such as Cabinda, is severely restricted: HRDs are subject to threats and intimidation while arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment are systematically used to prevent protests from taking place. Between 28 January 2019 and 1 February 2019, security forces arrested at least 62 people in relation to a planned protest, on 1 February 2019, to call for independence for the enclave of Cabinda.

    CIVICUS calls on the Government of Angola to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.

    Civic space in Angola is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    See our recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Angola.

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

  • Angola: Restrictions on fundamental freedoms continue ahead of elections


    The arraignment of two journalists in Angola on spurious charges is the latest assault on fundamental freedoms as the government increases restrictions on civic space ahead of crucial elections scheduled for 23 August 2017.  Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the government of Angola to stop the judicial persecution of journalists, and calls on international observers to ensure freedom of expression is respected in the run up to the elections.

    On 20 June 2017, journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenço were indicted by the Office of the Attorney General and charged with “outrage to a body sovereignty” and “insult against public authority” under the Law on Crimes Against the State and Penal Code respectively.

    The charges stem from an article published by Rafael Marques on 26 October 2016 on his website Maka Angola, in which he exposed details of the dubious circumstances in which the Attorney General Joao Mana Moreira de Sousa purchased a piece of land in 2011. Mariano Bras Lourenço, Director of the O Crimenewspaper, was charged after he re-published Rafael’s article. Both journalists could face up to six years in jail.

    “The judicial persecution of journalists is one of several strategies used by the Angolan government to silence critical voices in the lead -up to elections next month,” says Ine Van Severen,

    Policy and Research Analyst at CIVICUS. “Angola is one of the most repressive states in the Southern Africa region as the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos has shown complete disregard towards human rights norms.”

    Marques has been a victim of judicial persecution in the past. In 2015, he was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence after he was found guilty of defamation for publishing a book titled Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, in 2011. In the book, he revealed details of hundreds of killings by security guards and soldiers and human rights violations in the diamond fields of the Lundas region. 

    The Angolan authorities continue to use violence to disperse peaceful protests.  On 24 June 2017, protests led by the Movimento do Protectorado Lunda Tchokwe (MPL-T) in the provinces of Moxico, Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul, were violently repressed by security forces.  One person died, at least 13 were wounded, and over 78 protesters were detained.   MPL-T has been demanding for autonomy for the Lundas region.  More protests are planned for 29 July 2017.

    In February 2017, security forces again used brute force to disperse peaceful protests in Luanda and Benguela. Demonstrators were calling for the resignation of the Minister for Territorial Administration because of a perceived conflict of interest in his position as a candidate for the ruling party in the August elections and his responsibilities to oversee the voter registration process.

    Even though President José Eduardo dos Santos has agreed to step down after 38 years in power, his government is doing everything possible to ensure that the ruling party, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), maintains its grip on power. 

    CIVICUS calls on the Government of Angola to stop the judicial persecution of media and respect the rights of all citizens to peacefully assemble. 

    Angola is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor, a global platform tracking track civic rights violations around the world.


    For more information, please contact:

    Ine Van Severen

    Policy and Research Analyst



    Grant Clark

    Media Advisor


  • Angolan elections: Different name, same game for civil society?

    By David Kode

    Over the last 38 years, particularly since the end of the civil war in 2002, President Dos Santos has ruled Angola through securitisation of the society, repressing all dissent and restricting freedom of expression, association and assembly. Will space for civil participation open up after one of Africa’s longest serving rulers leaves power following elections this week?

    Read on: Pambazuka

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review


    CIVICUS makes seven joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Angola, Egypt, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Fiji and Madagascar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 34rd UPR session (October-November 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Angola - CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the use of several pieces of restrictive legislation, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and several restrictions under Law 23/10 of 3 December 2010 on Crimes against the Security of the State against journalists and HRDs. CIVICUS is further alarmed by the restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, notably the frequent banning of protests, although no prior authorisation is legally required, and the arbitrary arrests of protesters. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in subsequent sections of this submission demonstrates that the Government of Angola has not fully implemented the 19 recommendations relating to civil society space.

    Egypt - CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) address increasing restrictions of freedom of assembly, association and expression in Egypt since its last review. The state has continued to undermine local civil society organisations through the ratification of the laws on Associations and other Foundations working in the Field of Civil; on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes; and the law ‘For organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests. The submission also shows how this legislation has resulted in the detainment of scores of human rights defenders, including women, who have faced excessive amounts of surveillance, intimidation and slandering for their human rights work. Furthermore, in this period LGBTI activists have been assaulted, tens of NGOs closed in Case 173, and journalists have had their equipment confiscated. The UPR submission shows that Egypt has failed to implement any of the recommendations made in the last review, instead creating a more hostile environment for civic space actors.

    El Salvador (ES) - CIVICUS and Fundación de Estudios para la aplicación del Derechos (FESPAD) examine the steps taken by the government of El Salvador to address restrictions on civic space. We highlight government willingness to engage civil society in a consultation process to develop a new Law for Social Non-Profit Organisations and call El Salvador to ensure that the law respects international standards on the right to freedom of association. We raise concerns about the ongoing violence and stigmatisation of LGBTQI rights defenders, women's rights defenders and sexual and reproductive rights defenders, and the lack of protection for and killings of journalists.

    Iran - CIVICUS and Volunteer Activists assess the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations received by Iran during the 2nd UPR Cycle. Our assessment reveals that human rights violations continue in Iran as the authorities subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation. Freedom of association is severely restricted as civil society organisations that work on human rights issues and provide legal support to victims of human rights violations work in an extremely restricted environment. Peaceful assemblies are often violently repressed or banned and protesters have been arrested and detained. Journalists working for independent media platforms are targeted by the authorities while restrictive laws and policies are used to curtail freedom of expression and online freedoms.

    Fiji - CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) highlights how an array of restrictive laws in Fiji are being used to muzzle the press, silence critics and create a chilling effect in the country for activists and human rights defenders. The submission also examines barriers to hold peaceful protests, imposed by the authorities against civil society and trade unions as well challenges related to freedom of association.

    Iraq - CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights highlight the continuous violations with impunity committed by state and government-affiliated not-state actors in Iraq against journalists, activists and human rights defenders including concerted targeted attacks, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and intimidation. Several high-profile targeted killings of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) restricted the already culturally-constrained space for WHRDs. The civil society environment further deteriorated as the authorities proposed draft laws threatening freedom of expression, suspended critical media outlets and brought lawsuits against journalists and activists to curb dissent. The authorities also imposed undue limitations to freedom of assembly by using disproportionate and excessive lethal force to suppress mostly peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, including children.

    Madagascar - CIVICUS examines how human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and land rights, are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention. Most of these human rights defenders are targeted when they engage in advocacy and raise concerns over the environmental effects of the activities of mining companies in their communities. Restrictive legislation including a Communications Law and Cyber Crimes Law are used to restrict freedom of expression, target journalists and newspapers. The Malagasy authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly particularly during politically sensitive periods like elections or when activists working with communities engage in peaceful protests.

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

  • Tanzania, Kenya, Angola Join Watch List of Countries of Concern

    Attacks by the authorities on protesters, critics, NGOs and the media in Angola, Kenya and Tanzania have led global civil alliance, CIVICUS, to add the nations to its Watch List of countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.

    The updated Watch List, which is regularly reviewed in response to current events, was released today.

  • Widespread arrests, attacks and legal restrictions facing LGBTQI+ activists across Africa finds new report

    Widespread arrests, attacks and legal restrictions facing LGBTQI+ activists across Africa finds new report

    Johannesburg | 4 July, 2023

    • Same-sex relations criminalised in at least 27 countries south of the Sahara
    • Organisations shut down and offices raided for their work on LGBTQI+ rights
    • Widespread bans on the publication of information on gay rights
    • Anti-LGBTQI+ laws and practices disproportionately impact other excluded groups including women, children and victims of abuse 

    From Uganda to Cameroon, LGBTQI+ activists face significant restrictions due to the prevailing social, cultural and legal attitudes towards homosexuality and gender identity. A new report by CIVICUS, Challenging Barriers: Investigating Civic Space Limitations on LGBTQI+ Rights in Africa, looks at some common challenges faced by activists and civil society groups in countries south of the Sahara.

    Many African countries have laws that criminalise same sex activity. The laws, often remnants of colonial era legislation, can be used to target and prosecute LGBTQI+ individuals, including activists. Penalties range from fines, imprisonment to even the death penalty in some countries. 

    Limited legal protection in many African countries offers little or no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This lack of protection makes it difficult for activists and civil society groups to advocate for equal rights or seek justice when they face human rights abuses. The offices and activities of civil society organisations advocating for LGBTQI+ rights have been either raided or shutdown in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Cameroon.

    Attacks against people who identify as LGBTQI+ are common in countries such as Benin, Cameroon and Kenya. In Cameroon since 2022 there have been over 30 recorded cases of violence and abuse against LGBTQI+ people, while in Kenya sexual minority groups face escalating homophobic attacks. In January 2023, following a series of killings in 2022, unknown assailants murdered and dumped the body of LGBTQI+ activist Edwin Chiloba. Chiloba’s death, which many linked to his sexual orientation sparked public outrage, with civil society groups and members of the public denouncing the murder and calling on the authorities to bring those involved to justice.

    “With the escalating hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community in Africa, this report sheds light on the grave reality faced by many, and compels us to challenge prejudice, and advocate for equality - especially for the most marginalised. Governments must ensure equal protection for all people in accordance with their obligations on non-discrimination under international human rights law. We implore governments to take robust measures to safeguard the rights and well-being of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Sylvia Mbataru, CIVICUS’ Civic Space Researcher for Eastern & Southern Africa.

    Censorship and restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly have contributed to a deteriorating environment for activists. In several countries, the publication and dissemination of material on LGBTQI+ issues face strict editorial controls and bans. CIVICUS also documents how protests are being suppressed, including the use of various laws to deny permits for public demonstrations, specifically targeting LGBTQI gatherings.

    Despite the hostile environment in many countries, civil society groups continue to advocate for LGBTQI+ rights and score important victories. The report also documents  a number of positive developments including the decriminalization of same sex relations in Botswana and Gabon, as well as a recent Supreme Court decision in Namibia to recognise same-sex marriages concluded abroad between citizens and foreign spouses.

    The report concludes by demonstrating the impact of civic space restrictions against LGBTQI+ groups, and shows how the ramifications of these restrictions also affect other excluded groups including women and children.




25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997

11 Avenue de la Paix
Tel: +41.79.910.34.28

CIVICUS, c/o We Work
450 Lexington Ave
Nueva York
NY 10017
Estados Unidos