They called me crazy!

They called me crazy! They also branded me “frustrated”, “anti-patriotic”, “a CIA agent”, “a sell-out”, and “a traitor”. I endured endless political harassment and countless run-ins with the police. I had to cope with smear campaigns, economic deprivation and social isolation. I was put on trial for exposing their human rights abuse and corruption. Who are “they”?  “They” are the members of the Dos Santos Administration:  the individuals who were the beneficiaries of, and accomplices in, then-President José Eduardo dos Santos’s regime.  They’re the ones who embodied the institutionalized corruption and the state capture of the economy, the repression and the fear that pervaded Angola during the 38 years Dos Santos held power. Then in September 2017, Dos Santos’s chosen successor João Lourenço was elected President and decided that the stench of corruption was too much to bear. The result is that a number of high-profile and high-ranking malcreants within […]

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An Anguished Cry for Justice in Angola

The family of a man tortured to death by Angolan police have petitioned President João Lourenço for justice.  As reported by Maka Angola, João Alfredo Dala was beaten and mutilated during a 15-hour police interrogation as part of an investigation into the alleged kidnapping of an elderly pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Angola.   Evidence supplied to Maka Angola suggested that the pastor in question, Daniel Cem, had staged his own kidnapping as a form of revenge on the Church hierarchy after being sacked from his administrative role and losing his status and privileges.   Pastor Cem told officers investigating the case that the kidnappers bundled him into a truck he recognized as belonging to a member of his congregation, João Dala.     Mr Dala was taken in for questioning and a number of the officers from Angola’s Criminal Investigation Service (Serviço de Investigação Criminal – SIC) recorded the interrogation […]

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Angolan Injustice: The Case of the ‘Kidnapped’ Pastor

The reported kidnap of an elderly pastor belonging to the Church of Seventh Day Adventists in Angola made for sensational headlines. Pastor Daniel Cem alleged church leaders had ordered his abduction in November 2015 and claimed his family had to pay a ransom of 30 million Kwanzas (US $220,000 at the time) to secure his release. Pastor Cem named the Adventist Church’s regional Executive Secretary as having organized the kidnap. He then accused the President and Chief Financial Officer of defamation for passing around the church hierarchy an anonymous letter purporting to confess that the kidnap was staged by Cem’s own family to extort money from the church. After a controversial trial in December 2017, six members of the Adventist church, including the three northern region leaders, were found guilty and sentenced to between one and five years in prison. They have been bailed, pending appeal, but are confined to […]

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The Fake Assassination Attempt against Angola’s Vice-President

Why does the president of the Republic, João Lourenço, allow his government to be tarnished with fabricated accusations regarding the supposed attempted murder of his vice-president in the first months of his term? Why would the president allow the National Police and the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) to use a machete as an official torture tool? Why does the president allow the judicial system, especially SIC, to be so inhumane, specializing in forging absurd evidence and incarcerating innocents? Why does João Lourenço allow the involvement of staff members of the Security House of the Presidency in an act of torture to go unpunished? Let us turn to the facts. Five citizens, detained more than a month ago, are accused of the attempted murder of vice-president Bornito de Sousa. The accusation was concocted from a banal discussion about parking the car which the five were in. They were barbarously tortured, filmed […]

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My Trial

My trial has begun. I am standing on the dock accused of two crimes for nearly four hours straight. It is my punishment for not exercising. Now I feel the pain in my back. Under the Law on Crimes against State Security, I am accused of an outrage against a sovereign body, the former President José Eduardo dos Santos. The second crime is of insult against a public office holder, the former Attorney General João Maria Moreira de Sousa. Both carry a maximum sentence of four years. The courtroom is packed. Judge Josina Mussua Ferreira Falcão notes how disrespectful the former attorney general and his counsel have been. For the second time, they submitted a last minute request to postpone the trial sine die (without a set date), and this time with an unreasonable justification. The judge decides to go ahead with the trial without the plaintiff or his counsel. […]

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Angola’s Death Squads

Nearly two years ago, rumors began circulating in the Angolan capital, Luanda, that police officers working for the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) were routinely rounding up suspected petty criminals and killing them. Human rights journalist Rafael Marques de Morais began an investigation, taking oral and written testimony from dozens of witnesses, family members, friends, and even from the occasional survivor. He says “Compelling testimony points to a systematic SIC death squad operation targeting young men merely suspected of undesirable or criminal behavior.” Over a period of months, a clear pattern emerged with eye-witnesses naming individual police officers who had been seen to kill victims in broad daylight and in view of members of the public.  It was alleged that specific SIC units were acting as death squads with impunity. “The SIC death squads are blamed for the summary executions of hundreds of young Angolans, without even a cursory investigation of […]

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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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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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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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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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