The Tyrant’s Dilemma: Stay? No, Please Don’t

He promised he would step down. But the campaign has already begun to re-elect Angola’s President for the past 37 years. “Comrade President, please continue guiding the destiny of our country, asks the nation.” That’s the slogan plastered across the picture of a smiling José Eduardo dos Santos that has appeared on giant billboards in strategic locations across the capital, Luanda, in the past week. It’s all part of a public relations strategy aimed at persuading both Angola and the rest of the world that the increasingly tyrannical MPLA leader really ought to stay in power. Many Angolans were nourishing the faint hope that Dos Santos might be honorable and dignified enough to keep his word that he would voluntarily and peacefully retire from political life in 2018 (by which time he would have spent 39 years as President of Angola). Clearly they were deluded if they thought that a […]

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Meddling With Angola’s Electoral Register is Unconstitutional

Why does Angola need a new Electoral Registration Law?   Particularly one which would transfer control of the electoral register from the independent National Electoral Commission to the Ministry of Territorial Administration under the tutelage of Bornito de Sousa, one of the President’s staunch supporters in the ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola)? It’s a contentious move both in political and legal terms. Politically, it attributes to the party in power, the government of the day, the power to determine who can, and who can’t, vote. Legally, it violates the Angolan Constitution which explicitly attributes oversight of the electoral process to an independent body.  Article 107, Clause 1 of the Angolan Constitution states: “The electoral processes are organized by independent electoral administrative bodies whose structure, function, composition and competence are defined by law”. It is an internationally-accepted principle that the “electoral process” includes the compilation and upkeep of […]

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Dictator Dos Santos Going, Going… But Not Just Yet

It is rare for an African dictator to give up power voluntarily.  Thus, on March 11, when Angola’s President announced that he would retire from public life in 2018, the news reverberated across the world.  If he holds true to his word (and that is a big “if”) by the time José Eduardo dos Santos steps down he will have held power for a staggering 39 years. If he is preparing to go, why then is the President employing tactics straight out of the despot’s rulebook?  Why is he casting himself as the ‘victim’ of an imaginary coup plot to justify purges that further embed a culture of fear in Angola? Why would a politician on his way out, bring global ridicule upon himself and his regime with trumped-up charges and a show trial? Seventeen young dissidents are currently standing trial on bogus charges of plotting a rebellion and attempting […]

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From Being Bullied to a Dictator’s Nightmare

Writing has been my life’s passion and my curse too.  In my teens, I was bullied for being an avid reader and for wanting to express my opinions as informed by my readings. I vividly remember being taunted with the idea that “too much reading will bring you madness, and disgrace.” I had to endure periodic assaults. Each time I returned home crying, sobbing or bruised my mother would offer me two choices only. First, she would advise me to play by myself in the safety of our home. Second, she would warn me that if I went out to play with the bullies, I better return home quiet with no complaints or I would have to face her punishment for not knowing how to defend myself, and insisting on putting myself in harm’s way. As I grew, I set up a makeshift gym, with weights made out of tin […]

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The War on Social Media and the Trial of Activists

Following the president’s outline of his war on social media, Judge Januário Domingos is making history by being the first to hear a case of a political joke on Facebook that has displeased the regime. Yesterday, the judge of the Luanda Provincial Court questioned a Catholic priest, Father Jacinto Pio Wakussanga, for being part of an imaginary government, generated in a playful Facebook discussion, as the head of the National Electoral Commission. In court, the priest told the judge that he had heard through social media about this imaginary government and thought it was just a joke. Last May, a lawyer Albano Pedro set up an open online forum on his Facebook page to entice discussants to come up with names for what would be an ideal government of national salvation. The leader of the millennial religious sect “The Light of the Day”, José Julino Kalupeteka, who has been in […]

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President Dos Santos Wants Dictatorial Control of the Net

Angola’s President for the past 36 years, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has used his traditional end of year speech to announce legal measures to control social media and the internet, which he feels have been offending and humiliating him. Announcing his main projects for the New Year, the President ignored the famine currently affecting residents in the southern province of Cunene along with the many other challenges faced by the Angolan people.  Instead, he is prioritizing further ways to silence the growing criticism of his increasingly-dictatorial regime. This is equally the case with Angola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’, Isabel dos Santos, the President’s billionaire daughter.  This Christmas she had a  “Let them Eat Cake” moment, choosing to spend US $2 million on bringing the Anaconda rapper Nicki Minaj to Luanda rather visiting Cunene in her role as president of the Angolan Red Cross to assist local communities severely affected by the drought. Social […]

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Another Day in Court

Across the street, a police camera van monitors the movements outside the courthouse. The trial of the 17 activists charged with plotting a rebellion and attempting to assassinate the president by discussing literature on nonviolence, has attracted many other activists who want to express their support for the defendants. There is also another element of sophistication in this trial. The Military Intelligence and Security Service of the Angolan Armed Forces has deployed 80 officers to the trial. Half of them pose as either unknown relatives of the defendants or law students to fill the courtroom and, thus, enable the police to keep the unwanted activists, diplomats, observers and public away, with the excuse of the courtroom lacking space. The other half is deployed in the vicinity. Each defendant has the right to have two relatives in the courtroom, to whom the police issue credentials. No credentials no entry. That is […]

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Youth Activists Charged with Rebellion and Coup Plotting

The Angolan activist Rafael Marques told Lusa (Portuguese News Agency) this week that the charge of “rebellion” against the youths who have been detained in Luanda is a sign of desperation on the part of the Angolan authorities. “The charges did not surprise me because anything can be expected from a regime is so unpredictable and erratic,” said Mr Marques, who met the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield this week in Washington. “This charge shows that the authorities are increasingly desperate”, he said. The Angolan public prosecutor’s office charged 17 youth activists with preparing to rebel and to overthrow the president of the republic by attending workshops on barricading the streets and civil disobedience. According to the charges, which Lusa had access to, “the accused were planning to overthrow the legitimate bodies of sovereignty, create what they called a National Salvation Government and to write […]

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Kenyan and Angolan Journalists Awarded Prize for Integrity

Two African journalists known for exposing corruption in their respective countries of Kenya and Angola have been named the joint recipients of the 2015 Allard Prize for International Integrity. The Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia presented John Githongo and Rafael Marques de Morais with the Allard Prize at a special ceremony last night. The $100,000 prize is one of the world’s largest awards recognizing efforts to combat corruption and to promote human rights. As joint recipients, Mr. Githongo and Mr. Marques de Morais were each awarded $50,000 for their brave efforts in protecting human rights and fighting corruption. “It is a singular honour and a humbling experience to be selected for the Allard Prize,” says Mr. Githongo. “This recognition serves as an encouragement and as an important recognition that there is across the world a partnership between all people who care about human […]

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Attempts at Peaceful Protests are Now “Undemocratic” in Angola

The families of Angolan political prisoners are appealing against the decision of the Luanda Provincial Governor, Graciano Domingos, banning the protest and vigil set for the 26 of September.   Graciano Domingos argued that the gathering would be undemocratic. This is yet another episode in the famous case of the young activists who were arrested last June on politically motivated charges that they were plotting a coup against President Dos Santos. The youth had assembled at a book club reading, and were discussing materials on non-violent strategies against repression when they were detained. “We would like to make it known that the case is still going through the appropriate  legal procedures; therefore, we need to wait patiently for the final decision on the basis of the law, and for the defence of the accused on the basis of their constitutional rights,” the governor said. The law permits 90 days of preventive […]

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