A Journey for Rights and Dignity: A Participant’s Observation

Note: This text was initially delivered as the Hormuud Lecture of the African Studies Association, at its annual meeting in Chicago, on November 18, 2017.   Within days after delivering this lecture, I will be publishing the first report focused exclusively on extrajudicial killings in Angola. These executions were carried out in the past year by the Angolan Criminal Investigation Service operatives across the two most populated neighborhoods of the capital Luanda, namely Cacuaco and Viana. In the report there are more than 100 victims identified and additional unidentified individuals suspected of being delinquents or simply innocent. During my investigation I discovered the existence of an open field, next to a primary school in Viana (Escola Primária e do 1º Ciclo do Ensino Secundário nº 5113), that locals called the slaughterhouse or more commonly the death camp. The state operatives usually took their victims to this slaughterhouse in broad daylight. […]

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A New Angolan President

On September 21 we will have a new president, after 38 years with José Eduardo dos Santos. The National Electoral Commission has named João Lourenço president-elect, without legally validating the votes in 15 of the 18 provinces. The MPLA, already in power for 42 years will continue to rule for a further five-year term. Anyone who things that the law is worth when MPLA’s leaders’ interests are at stake, is mistaken. It is worth taking a look back at the history of presidential power in Angola and its popular legitimacy. In 1975, Agostinho Neto became president through the unilateral declaration of independence, after expelling the other liberation movements, FNLA (led by Holden Roberto) and UNITA (led by Jonas Savimbi), from Luanda. The three movements had formed a transitional government, and the process of declaring independence ought to have happened only after elections were held. Instead, the most cunning and strategic […]

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Angolan Vote Count Flouted The Rules

Members of Angola’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) have described how the legal procedures for collecting and tabulating the results of Wednesday’s election were flouted by officials who reported favorable results to the MPLA, with no indication of how these results were calculated. Opposition leaders have accused MPLA of inventing the results. The reports of malpractice come as opposition parties release the results of parallel counts, calculated by adding up the results posted at individual polling stations. These parallel counts show the MPLA in first place, but without an outright majority. The CNE began to announce the preliminary election results on Thursday afternoon, before results from the provinces had been approved either at local level or by the National Counting Center. According to the numbers the CNE announced, the MPLA won a majority with 64.57%, more than double the total of UNITA, which was in second place with 24.4%. CASA-CE took […]

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Angolan Muslims Denounce Human Rights Violations

Aisha Lopes, the fashion designer, and her husband Angelica Bernardo da Costa (also known as Mujahid Kenyata) are Angolan nationals who converted to Islam in 1996.   Aisha, a diabetic, was nursing her 26-day-old infant delivered via high-risk Caesarean surgery when security forces raided the family’s apartment at 5 am on December 2 nd , 2016.  More than 20 armed officers from the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) and the security branch burst in and detained her and her baby, along with her 39-year-old husband. Aisha says they ransacked the apartment, seizing computers, phones, more than 200 books, the couple’s bank cards and all the personal documents belonging to the couple.   “They even took my medical reports. They did not leave a single sheet of paper. “ “We are poor and the agents mocked us, saying that the head of the terrorists in Angola had almost nothing of worth in […]

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Refugees: A Sore Point for Dos Santos and Kabila

More than 30,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are housed in two temporary reception camps, Kakanda and Mussunga, in Lunda-Norte province. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that about 500 refugees are arriving in these camps each day. Congolese citizens are continuing to cross the border to escape the current conflict in the Kasai region, which erupted in April last year. Last April, in addition to the refugees, around 180 armed men from the Congolese armed forces and police also escaped from the clashes between government forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia, according to the data this website received from the local authorities. The same sources say that more than 100 members of the Congolese forces managed to escape the control of the defence and security forces, and ‘disappeared’ in the Angolan town of Dundo, while the rest were repatriated. In the same month, […]

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Police Use Lethal Force to Repress Diamond-Area Protest

Reports from the diamond-rich province of Lunda Norte in north-eastern Angola say police opened fire without warning on peaceful demonstrations by separatists on Sunday, killing one bystander and wounding others. Protest marches in the region had been organized by a banned political organization, the ‘Movimento do Protectorado Lunda-Tchokwé’ (MPL-T, Movement for the Lunda-Tchokwé Protectorate), which advocates independence for the Tchokwé peoples who live in the former ancient kingdom of the Lundas. The separatists have argued for a measure of autonomy, similar to that accorded to Scotland within the United Kingdom. Insiders say the MPL-T wrote to Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos earlier this month to ask for dialogue and for permission to hold a public demonstration. It appears that no march permit was sought from the local authorities. Up to a thousand supporters are said to have turned out in the town of Luzamba at 7am with the aim […]

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Lifelong Immunity from Prosecution for the President

It is right and proper that anyone who has served as head of state or government should be accorded due honors upon exiting the job. The peaceful transition of power is a cornerstone of democracy and those who have reached the pinnacle and who willingly step aside when their time is up, are rightfully guaranteed some special treatment for the rest of their days. It’s a mark of respect for their service. With the prospect of a voluntary exit for José Eduardo dos Santos, who has held power in Angola for an astonishing 37 years, few would be so churlish as to deny the man who likes to call himself “the Architect of Peace” the consolations of orderly retirement. What is customary around the world? No doubt his name will emblazon important civic works. Perhaps he is granted an annual pension and a security detail for life. Perhaps the state […]

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When You Can’t Shoot, Sue!

Recently, the Angolan ruling party MPLA proposed, in Parliament, that the outgoing President and Vice-President be given absolute immunity from prosecution for any crimes they committed while in office. Consequently, within days the regime has launched new indictments against whistle-blower and human rights defender, Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael Marques de Morais is the fearless, award-winning editor of the online news site Maka Angola. It focuses on  investigating and publishing citizens’ complaints about the all-too-common cases of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations in oil-rich Angola. He has been a thorn in the side of Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself, his family and his loyal supporters in the ruling MPLA party. Meanwhile, only permitting a trickle of the country’s oil wealth to be used for the benefit of the people he was supposed to serve. Outside Angola, the […]

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Nobody Wants to Kiss the General

Reports of bizarre behavior by the Angolan President’s loyal henchman, General José António Maria, aged 74, have become so frequent that people are openly questioning whether the elderly security head honcho is succumbing to senility. Already past the official retirement age, the man better known as General “Zé Maria” remains the head of the Military Intelligence and Security Service (Serviço de Inteligência e Segurança Militar, SISM) despite the concerns for his mental health. Once again his unprofessional behavior towards female employees is causing a stir in Luanda. The General is a notorious womanizer, who propositions almost every woman he encounters. When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, he appears to ignore both Angolan laws and the passage of time. Have none of his senior colleagues thought to whisper in his ear that this is the 21st Century and ‘droit de seigneur’ is past its sell-by date? The latest […]

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All Aboard the Gravy Train

Angola’s gravy train has been rumbling along one set of tracks for the past 37 years, with all-encompassing corruption tainting the ruling MPLA party under President José Eduardo dos Santos. Those at the apex of the pyramid have diverted billions of dollars from the economy to their own bank accounts, while ensuring the loyalty of those beneath them by dispensing cash, goods and favors as needed. With just over two months to go to the presidential election that will see a change of leadership, members of the National Assembly (Angola’s parliament) are being given a sign that it will be ‘business as usual’. The National Assembly is chaired by veteran MPLA politburo member, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos “Nandó”. Nandó is a rather sinister character with a smile likened to that of a cat which has just devoured its prey. His official job titles (police chief, Interior Minister, Prime […]

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