Nuno Dala: A Spirit Unbowed

Nuno Álvaro Dala, one of the imprisoned Angolan dissidents, has been on hunger strike for the past 31 days.   So far that’s one day for each of his 31 years of age and almost as many as the number of years that José Eduardo dos Santos has ruled over Angola (37, come September).  In another five days, Nuno Dala will overtake his fellow prisoner Luaty Beirão’s record hunger strike of last year. Nuno Dala’s courage is admirable.  He is not refusing food because he wishes to be set free.  In some respects he is already free.  He still has free will – and however brutal or stupid the regime’s behaviour towards him, by his self-denial he shows he is undefeated. Nuno Dala stopped eating because those who serve José Eduardo dos Santos’s mindlessly brutal regime have denied him the means to provide for his ten-month-old baby daughter, his wife Raquel […]

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United States Raises Concerns About the 17 Jailed Activists

Angolan human rights defenders, Rafael Marques de Morais, has given an interview to the Portuguese news agency Lusa about his latest meetings with Obama Administration officials to brief them on the situation in Angola. One of the main concerns underlined in his conversations with US officials was the state of health of two jailed political dissidents, Nito Alves and Nuno Dala, both of whom are gravely ill. Nuno Dala has been on hunger strike for 26 days. “The United States has expressed grave concern over the treatment of these two men who are being held in inhumane conditions in prison and have not received adequate medical attention,” said the rights defender. Briefing Angolan human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais was in Washington DC this week to brief Obama Administration officials on the fate of the 17 political dissidents recently given long jail terms after a show trial in the […]

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General Zé Maria: The Puppet Master

One of the most powerful men in Angola is a septuagenarian soldier accustomed to operating in the shadows. A career military man whose name is feared across the nation. Yet outside Angola his role and legendary status is little known, and even less understood. General António José Maria “Zé Maria” is an interesting character, to say the least. During the ‘War of National Liberation’ (against Portuguese colonial rule) he served in the colonial army. Yet since Independence he has been a key figure behind the scenes, prodigiously rooting out palace intrigues and imaginary coups d’état and purging suspected malcontents. His actions are purposefully directed to reinforcing and consolidating the position of the person who occupies the highest office in the land. As President, José Eduardo dos Santos (familiarly known as Zedú) is the titular Commander-in- Chief. But it’s the man who has his ear, the man who has been his […]

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Portugal Supports Impunity in Angola

An unholy alliance of three political parties in the Portuguese parliament resulted on March 31 in their voting down the Left Block’s motion to repudiate the verdicts and sentences handed down against Domingos da Cruz, Luaty Beirão, Nito Alves and a further 14 young Angolans, condemned for peacefully manifesting their disagreement with the looting of their homeland by the dictatorial oligarchy led by José Eduardo dos Santos. The PSD (Social Democratic Party) led by Passos Coelho, the CDS (Social Democratic Centre Peoples Party) led by Paulo Portas and the PCP (Portuguese Communist Party) led by Jerónimo de Sousa, have shown themselves to be accomplices of the public servants bought and paid for by the Dos Santos regime for their work in perpetuating the disgusting banality of evil which has become the daily experience of millions of Angolans. Portas, Passos and the Communists are today partners in this repellent neo-colonial expedition […]

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A Dictator’s Immunity for Life is no Longer Guaranteed

For as long as José Eduardo dos Santos remains President of the Republic of Angola, and even after he steps down (if he ever does), he is guaranteed immunity from prosecution under Articles 127 and 133 of the Angolan Constitution. This begs the question:  Up to what point is this statutory protection legitimate?  Can a President loot his country with impunity or are there any circumstances under which a serving or past president can be brought to justice? Ever since the United Nations was founded in 1945, jurists in the field of International Law have tried to create legal instruments to prevent political leaders from committing crimes while in office.  To date, the best-evolved and most comprehensive legal instrument for this purpose emerged from the Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The ICC was set up to prosecute international individuals for international crimes such as […]

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The Truly Guilty Will Not Rest Easy

It’s not easy to find sleep when your thoughts are filled with the plight of 17 colleagues. By daring to explore ways of expressing dissent – in what is supposed to be a democracy – they  are persecuted, beaten, deprived of their liberty, subjected to a kangaroo court, convicted on the most spurious evidence by puppet judges, and then sentenced to long prison terms in unsanitary conditions where they will be denied their most basic human rights, including medical attention. Will Judge Januário Domingos sleep easy tonight?  Will Prosecutor Isabel Fançony Nicolau?  Do they know or care that their reputations will now forever be sullied by the infamy of their roles in a tawdry show trial? Isabel was apparently so embarrassed by having to play the part of prosecuting attorney that she adopted a disguise (a face-obscuring wig, glasses and exaggerated cosmetics) during the trial. This dastardly duo has previous […]

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Luanda Book Club Dissidents Convicted

As they predicted from the moment of their arrest, the political dissidents who dared to think about a transition from dictatorship to democracy in Angola, have been found guilty at their show trial of a “conspiracy to rebel” against the 36-year government of President José Eduardo dos Santos. All 17 defendants caught or suspected of reading Gene Sharp’s book advocating nonviolent means of resisting dictatorship in June last year, have been found guilty of the crimes of “preparation for rebellion” and “criminal association”, and handed prison sentences ranging from two to eight years.  Charges of preparing a coup against the President were dropped. The development has been widely condemned by human rights organizations around the world.  In New York, the Human Rights Foundation issued a statement strongly condemning the convictions and sentences and called on the Angolan government “to vacate the convictions and release the activists immediately.” Journalist Domingos da […]

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The Cafunfo Witch Hunt

The diamond-mining region of the Lundas in Angola’s Northeast spews immense riches into the hands of a favoured few.  While this area is heavily controlled by private security and state intelligence, “traditional rulers” still hold significant sway in adjudicating and managing conflict amongst the majority Lunda-Tchokwe ethnic group, guided by a system of animist beliefs (Kimbanda). In this they are advised by high priests (Kimbandeiros) who, as interpreters of orally transmitted beliefs and guardians of knowledge, operate both as diviners and healers. Angola’s government acknowledges these customary leaders and healers, exercising indirect supervision over them through local committees of the ruling MPLA (Peoples Movement for the Liberation of Angola).  For the most part, these civil and customary systems co-exist peacefully, but from time to time they collide; sometimes violently. Such was the case in Cafunfo last month.  Extreme poverty and high levels of infant mortality have resulted in desperate villagers […]

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Angola’s President Suspected of Money-Laundering

The European Justice Commissioner, Vera Jourova, has called on the Portuguese authorities to investigate how Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan President’s daughter, acquired 65% of the Portuguese Energy giant, Efacec Power Solutions, in June last year for US $220 million. The commission wants proof that the transaction was in compliance with the rules to prevent money-laundering in the EU. Last October, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Integrity, Transparency, Corruption, and Organised Crime called for an investigation into the legality of the purchase. Speaking to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes said that the banks had failed to perform due diligence in accordance with EU money-laundering rules. Ms Gomes pointed to the source of funds: transfers from the Angolan State into offshore companies to leverage financial operations by the President’s daughter. “Such transfers are obviously suspect and require extra diligence in checking the origin of the funds”, the MEP […]

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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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