Angola: End crackdown on civil society, uphold international commitments

29 June 2015 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the on-going crackdown on civil society in Angola, urging the international community not to look the other way as the safety of activists, members of civil society organisations (CSOs) and journalists is imperilled.

Most recently, on Saturday 20 June 2015, the authorities arrested at least 13 activists from a meeting as part of a coordinated crackdown on dissent in the country. The activists, including prominent rapper Luaty Beirão, freelance journalist Sedrick de Carvalho and representatives of CSOs, were arrested during a private gathering to discuss nonviolent strategies for civil disobedience based on Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.

While the authorities failed to present an arrest warrant during the raid, statements released by the Attorney General indicate that the activists are being held on suspicion of preparing acts against public order and state security. There are reports that other activists have also been rounded up as part of an ongoing crackdown on democratic dissent and that their lives may be in danger.

“Angola is one of the most repressive countries in the southern African region where even a basic discussion on the state of governance by public spirited individuals invites harsh censure,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

“It’s important for Angola’s trade and development partners to recognise this sad fact when they do business with its government. The regional and international community cannot afford to ignore the grave rights violations being committed by Angola’s totalitarian state apparatus,” said Tiwana.

On 28 May 2015, the investigative journalist, Rafael Marques de Morais was punished with a 6 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and the seizure of his passport on charges of defamation for writing a book. His book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, exposes serious human rights abuses in the diamond mines of the North-Eastern Lunda province describing murder and torture perpetrated by private security agents and diamond mining companies. It also implicates several army generals considered close to the presidency.

On 14 March 2015, human rights defender Marcos Mavungo and human rights lawyer Arão Bula Tempo were detained on questionable charges of “sedition and threatening state security” for planning a peaceful protest against poor governance, corruption and rights violations in the politically contested and militarised oil-rich Angolan enclave province of Cabinda.  Arão Bula Tempo was released on 16 April, subject to supervision pending a court decision, while the detention without trial of Marco Mavungo continues. It is reported that, as a cardiac patient, his health is seriously deteriorating due to lack of appropriate medical assistance and psychological torture committed by security and intelligence agents.

Also in March this year, a restrictive new Presidential Decree was passed to further control and limit the work of civil society organisations (CSOs). The existing process of registration of CSOs in Angola is ambiguously administered, and often used by the authorities to keep organisations in legal limbo and uncertainty. Several human rights groups remain challenged by non-receipt of their certificate of registration from the Ministry of Justice.  Under the new decree, the public prosecutor’s office is empowered to suspend the activities of national and international NGOs on suspicion of money laundering, illegal or harmful acts against Angola's sovereignty and integrity. The decree also increases bureaucratic red tape by placing additional burdens on CSOs requiring them to provide information about their programmes, budgets and sources of funding. Civil society analysts fear that the decree’s vague and overbroad provisions could be subjectively applied to restrict the activities of CSOs seeking to uncover corruption and human rights violations. Already, CSOs continue to be subjected to various forms of stigmatisation by government officials including false allegations of being foreign agents.

“Angola’s government accepted several recommendations to protect the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. The situation on the ground shows that these commitments are not being honoured,” Tiwana said.


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