Detained Angolan Journalist Threatens to Commit Suicide in Protest

Detained Angolan journalist Sedrick de Carvalho has written a letter, from the São Paulo Prison, threatening to commit suicide in protest against his 176 days of unlawful detention, culminating in a sham trial which started on November 16.

In an open letter to the public, the 26 year-old journalist reveals that, during his six months in detention, he spent more than 2,000 hours straight in solitary confinement without being able to see daylight. He says this is a deliberate strategy by the Angolan authorities, to drive the prisoners insane  with psychological torture, humiliation and other abuses.

“I regret to say that from now on I will refuse any further visits, to prevent any efforts that my family (wife, little daughter, parents and siblings) may undertake to convince me to back down on my decision, Sedrick de Carvalho writes in his open letter. “ I am also announcing that I am beginning a hunger strike and I forbid them from bringing me food”. In the Angolan prison system, relatives must feed the prisoner and even provide him with water.

“By refusing to leave my cell (where I expect to die in the coming days), I authorize, and even recommend, Judge Januário Domingos to immediately convict me, even though I am innocent, because I do not believe that under the present dictatorship a contrary decision is even possible,” he continues.

The journalist says he will forego water altogether: “I also inform you that I no longer need water to shower or to brush my teeth or wash my clothes. I no longer require such needs.” Angolan prison cells have no running water, which has to be provided in buckets.

Sedrick de Carvalho is one of the 15 youths arrested over the period between June 20 and 24, who have been charged with the crime of rebellion against President José Eduardo dos Santos. At the time of his arrest, Sedrick was a full-time journalist at the independent weekly newspaper Folha 8, as well as director of the newly launched online sports publication ‘O Golo’ (Goal), which went idle after his arrest.

The bookstore of rebellion

The youths – who opposed the stranglehold on Angolan political life exerted by the ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) – held a handful of meetings, on Saturdays, at the bookstore “Livraria Kiazele”, in Luanda, to discuss peaceful means of protest.

Some of them, like rapper Luaty Beirão (who went on a 36-day hunger strike earlier this year), Nito Alves, Arante Kivuvu and Albano Bingobingo had previously attempted to hold peaceful protests, as enshrined in the
Constitution, resulting in beatings by police and security apparatchiks, arrests and torture while in detention.

As they were not able to hold protests, the youths decided to take a break and study other peaceful means of expressing political opposition. Inspired by the work of American academic Gene Sharp, the journalist, university lecturer and fellow detainee Domingos da Cruz, adapted Sharp’s writings to the Angolan reality in a manuscript which he entitled “Tools to Destroy a Dictatorship and Avoid a New Dictatorship – a Political Philosophy for the Liberation of Angola”.

The manuscript served as a starting point for the youths’ debates on peaceful means of protest. It is being used as the primary evidence of the youths’ intentions to seize power, which the state alleges would have
involved violent means.

Activists Laurinda Gouveia (left) and Rosa Conde have also been accused of plotting to assassinate President dos Santos.

Two young female activists, Laurinda Gouveia and Rosa Conde, were later charged with the same crimes, but remain free while on trial.

During the trial, which is now in its fifth week, the judged demanded a court clerk read out the 187-page manuscript in court – a task which took two full days.

Sedrick de Carvalho, who worked with Domingos da Cruz at the magazine Folha 8, designed the layout and took part in the meetings as both colleagues sought to edit and improve the manuscript with the critical contributions emerging from the debates. That is his crime, according to the state authorities.

“I am devastated. I am in shock since he told me of his decision on Saturday, his wife Neusa de Carvalho told Maka Angola. “I totally disagree with this stance. He must be strong for he knows that he is innocent and is being used as a scapegoat by the government.”