Civic space violations following elections
This Monitor update covers developments relating to the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Angola from August 2022 to March 2023.
On 24th August 2022, Angola held its general elections for representatives to the National Assembly. Following a tense pre-electoral environment, with the capital under high security, the National Election Commission publicised the results: The ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola garnered 51 percent of the vote, securing a slight majority and subsequently a second term for incumbent president João Lourenço.
The country's constitutional court rejected an appeal by the largest opposition party, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which had called for an investigation, citing several discrepancies in the vote count.
Prior to the elections, human rights watchdogs reported crackdowns on the political opposition and civic activists, as well as restrictions on expression and access to independent, alternative sources of information than state-run media.
#Angola| Declaração sobre a detenção continuada dos defensores dos direitos humanos angolanos Luther Augusto da Silva Campo, Gilson da Silva Moreira e outros vinte e seis— SouthernDefenders (@SAHRDNetwork) May 12, 2022
Para ler mais acesse o link abaixo: https://t.co/OG5K1nrjUf pic.twitter.com/hmcw8J4Yp0
The post-election climate was also tense, with crackdowns on the right to association. Human Rights Watch reported that a day before the president's inauguration, three political activists were arrested, and political activist Zola Mandela was taken from his home, allegedly by police. In addition, Global Voices, citing local civic movement Mudei, reported that at least 20 activists were detained because of their criticism of the electoral results. On 29th August 2022, Angolan civil society called on the authorities to release six activists who had been arrested while demonstrating against the election results.
In November 2022, Angolan NGO OMUNGA cited several incidents during which planned activities and events had been disrupted or prevented. For example, an OMUNGA conference on peace was prevented from taking place, with police surrounding the hotel where the event had been planned and stopping participants from entering.
In December 2022, after being held in detention for more than eight months, Angolan activist Gilson da Silva, also known as Tanaece Neutral, was sentenced to 15 months, but granted a suspended sentence. He faced charges of allegedly inciting to criminal activity, resisting an official, and for referring to the Angolan president on social media as "'a bandit and a clown".
Another Angolan activist Luther Campos known as "Luther King" was also held in detention from 12th January 2022 on accusations of "rebellion against an official" and without access to appropriate care for his health. He received a 22-month suspended sentence in February 2023.
Human rights and media freedom watchdogs have criticised the Angolan government for its repressive laws on defamation and the chilling effect such laws have had on the media environment and freedom of expression.
In October 2022, the Committee to Protect Journalists documented several cases of violations of freedom of expression, namely an assault on an opposition journalist's wife by two unidentified assailants and the temporary detention of a Deutsche Welle journalist by police, while he was reporting on a student protest.
International organisations have called attention to violations of the right to protest by Angolan security forces, including the use of excessive force and arbitrary detentions of protesters. In many cases, there has been complete impunity, with police officers and members of the security forces not being investigated and held accountable.
Several recent cases of violations of the right to peaceful assembly are as follows:
- On 27th February 2023, police raided a neighbourhood in Luanda, forcefully evicting hundreds of people. Residents who peacefully protested the evictions and demolitions of their homes were beaten and arrested, according to Human Rights Watch.
- On 10th February 2023, police prevented a peaceful action in Luanda and Benguela. In Luanda, in particular, the authorities would not authorise the protest. Demonstrators had gathered to call for local elections; the protest action had been organised by the Angolan civic associations - OMUNGA, Movimento Jovens pela Autarquias, and Friends of Angola.
- On 28th January 2023, civil society reported that police had harassed and arrested civic activists in Luanda who were participating in a peaceful protest calling for the release of political prisoners.
- On 19th November 2023, eleven protesters were arrested during a civil society demonstration to demand the release of activists Luther Campos and Tanaece Neutro - details under Association. Two protesters were reportedly severely injured. The protest was not authorised by local authorities.
- On 14th September 2022, media reported that police prevented a protest from taking place, arresting three demonstrators and using intimidation to keep demonstrators from gathering to protest the 24th August election results.