There is No Place Like Home Unless You Are Banned

For the second time in my legal and political brushes with the Angolan government, I learnt  of a banning order preventing me from entering Luanda, my city.

I arrived in Luanda at 12.15 yesterday, having flown from South Africa.  While checking my passport, an immigration officer asked me: “What kind of problems do you have with the Angolan government?” He then told me of the order banning my entrance and held on to my passport.
Another officer ordered me to join a group of foreigners in a waiting room who were possibly about to be repatriated for immigration irregularities. Apparently I was assumed a foreigner; one of the officers began to address me in English.

After a while, another officer, playing the well-mannered cop, came to talk to me and informed me that his colleague had been overzealous. He added that there was an order banning me from leaving the country, and not from entering.

The officer confused me. Perhaps it had to do with the fatigue from the journey.  To my incomprehension, the officer told me that the order banning me from leaving was old but was still in the “system.”

Then, I asked to speak to the supervisor who was equally civil. He began to refer to an updated and current order banning me from leaving the country.  This confused me even more.  When I asked for more details the first officer, correcting his colleague, said the order was old, but was still in the “system.”
In this way, the supervisor blamed the “system” for the incident; that is the computer’s “system.” I got back my passport.

I told them that I would be travelling again on September 14.  I asked them whether the system would be working properly or whether there was a current ban on my leaving the country.

I told them also that I would be taking part in a conference on Human Rights in Angola being organized by Amnesty International Portugal and a Member of the European Parliament, Ana Gomes.

As far as I know, none of the authorities have told me of any restrictions on my freedom – including of movement.

Eventually, the spokesman for the Immigration Service, Simao Milagres, called me later last evening  with an institutional apology. “Despite being very intelligent, the system came up with a search stating that there is an international arrest warrant for one also named Rafael Marques  de Morais.  The [officer] checked the data base and noticed the mistake.  I would like to apologize on behalf of the institution”, he told me.

The Immigration Service spokesperson also said that, “No citizen can be banned from entering his own country.” The occurrence at the airport, he said, was a misunderstanding that was caused by the system.

The spokesperson asked to be informed in advance of my next foreign trip to avoid any other unfortunate coincidence.
In 2005, after returning from the central highland province of Bié,  I suffered the humiliation of being retained  in the hangar of the former air taxi operator Sociedade de Aviacao Ligeira.  One of the workers told me that there was an order banning me from entering Luanda.  A supervisor turned up after two hours, and blamed the overzealousness on his subordinate.  He said there was an order banning me from leaving Luanda, and since I had “escaped” they decided to have a similar order banning me from entering on my return.