Minor Arrested for “Defaming” the President

Angolan police detained youth activist Manuel Civonda Baptista Nito Alves, 17, on Thursday, September 12, for allegedly defaming President José Eduardo dos Santos. The arrest took place in Luanda’s Viana district.

“We went to Unit 45 of the National Police in Capalanca neighborhood, and the police told us my son had been detained when he went to fetch t-shirts for the Revolutionary Movement demonstration scheduled for September 19,” his father Fernando Baptista told Maka Angola.

“The police officers told us he was detained for having committed the crime of defaming the President of the Republic,” the father added. “They asked us to go to the Municipal Directorate of Criminal Investigation tomorrow to get his case number.”

Other activists in the Viana area told Maka Angola that Nito Alves had been detained in connection with the production of 20 t-shirts bearing the words “José Eduardo out! Nasty dictator.” On the back of the t-shirts were the words “Angolan people, when war is necessary and urgent.” This phrase is the title of an article and a book by journalist Domingos da Cruz published in 2009. On September 6 this year, the Luanda Provincial Court cleared Da Cruz of a charge brought against him by the attorney general of inciting collective disobedience. The judge confirmed that such a crime did not exist in Angolan law.

Fernando Baptista expressed concern about his son’s extra-curricular activities. “Someone from this Revolutionary Movement needs to defend my son,” he said. “I have told him not to get involved in these activities, so as not to get into trouble.”

Fernando Baptista’s main concern was that his son, currently in 11th grade, would fail the academic year.

Nito Alves’s mother, Adália Chivongue, 40, insisted that her son “committed no crime, not in the slightest.”

“The problem in this country is that anyone who speaks the truth is arrested or killed,” she told Maka Angola. “So the President has my son arrested because of t-shirts? They can kill him for this?”

“If anything happens to my son, I will become revolutionary,” she added.

Nito Alves’s arrest happened the day before the start of the National Youth Forum in Luanda, an initiative that President José Eduardo dos Santos has promoted as a means of dialogue between the youth and the government.

In June, during a rare televised interview, President dos Santos dismissed the youth who have been challenging his 34 years in power as “a group of about 300 frustrated individuals.”

“They are young people with certain frustrations, who did not have success in their school or academic life, and who have not managed to find a good place in the labor market,” the President said during his interview to the Portuguese television channel SIC.

The wave of negative reactions to this statement prompted the President to sponsor the forum as a way of improving his image among the youth.