Anti-corruption journalist Rafael Marques and Mariano Bras acquitted


On 6th July, the Provincial Court of Luanda acquitted anti-corruption journalist Rafael Marques and Mariano Brás, editor of the newspaper O Crime. Both were charged on 20th June 2017 with 'outrage to a body of sovereignty' and 'injury against public authority' under the Law on Crimes Against the State and Penal Code respectively. The charges stem from an article published by Rafael Marques on 26 October 2016 on his website Maka Angola, in which he exposed details of the dubious circumstances in which the Attorney General Joao Mana Moreira de Sousa purchased a piece of land in 2011. Mariano Bras Lourenço, director of the O Crime newspaper, was charged after he re-published Rafael’s article. 

In recent months, there has been an increase in pressure on media and journalists, notes Deutsche Welte. On 2nd April, director of the newspaper Liberdade, Escrivão José and journalist Albino Sampaio were summoned by the Office of the Attorney General after a criminal complaint of vice-president Bournito de Sousa, for an interview the newspaper published accusing the then Minister of Territorial Administration of diversion of millions of kwanzas. Escrivão José said to Deutsche Welte:

"Voices against the Government have always been intimidated. When we do investigative journalism we receive some threats, given the work we are doing, and now we have received this process."

Additionally, on 14th June the ruling MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola) accused private tv channel Zimbo of 'instigating disobedience', referring to the programme 'Fala Angola' that discusses social problems in the country. The Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) announced in June it will sue the director of newspaper O Crime, Mariano Bras, for the publication, on 16th June, of an article saying that the killing of a young suspected criminal by an agent of SIC was a cover up, related to a diversion of 14 million kwanzas recuperated by agents in an operation. 

In January 2018, activist and professor Domingos da Cruz relaunched the project Observatório da Imprensa (Press and Communication Observatory), a civil society project to monitor and analyse the performance of the media in Angola, guided by human rights principles.

Peaceful Assembly

Since the change in leadership, Angola's new president, João Lourenço, made a firm commitment to tackle corruption and mismanagement of public funds. There has been a multiplication of protests in different localities in the country against bad governance. For example, on 8th April, more than 500 people took to the streets in Luanda's municipality in Cazenga against the municipality's administration, citing many social problems that citizens are faced with, from infrastructure, to health and public safety. About 50 young protesters hit the streets in Lubango, in the province of Huile on 19th May, to denounce the bad governance of the provincial governor. On 16th June, hundreds of people gathered in M'Banza Kongoin Zaire Province to demand the dismissal of the provincial governor, Joanes André, due to bad governance. A report on the protest by activist and researcher Nuno Álvaro Dala, documents acts of intimidation and harassment against young protesters. 

Since the change in leadership, authorities in the past period have at times been more tolerant of protests, although this permissive attitude has been at two speeds, said analysts to VOA: while more tolerance was noted in the country's capital Luanda, protests in other regions such as the Lundas provinces, Cabinda and Malaje, as shown below, have been banned or repressed.

On 12th April 2018, the Court of Comarca of Malanje sentenced three students - Afonso Simão Muatchikukulu, Justino Horácio António Valente and António José Fernando - to prison sentences of 5 to 6 months on charges of crimes against the security of the state,insult of public authorities and subversion of public order for participating in a protest against the Provincial Government of Malanje during the commemorations on the Day of Peace and National Reconciliation on 4th April. The National Police in Malanje banned two planned protest, on 21 and 22 April, against the sentencing of the three students, on grounds of not knowing the organisers of one of the protests, Movimento Revolucionário de Malanje, and a prohibition on protesting on Sundays. A group of activists later launched a national campaign in Luanda to demand the liberation of the protesters, including vigils and protests in Malanje and Luanda (see video below). Police officers interrupted one of the campaign's protests on 26th May in the center of Luanda. 

On 16th June, the Observatório para Coesão Social e Justiça em Angola organised a protest in Luanda against the increase in crime, which the organizers say has become common place, including the extra-judicial killings by security forces , arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, kidnappings and torture, among others. The protest follows a surge in crime in Luanda and the killing of a young man suspected of theft by security officers on 1st June, which was captured on video and shared on social networks.

On 27th May, police officers used excessive force, including police dogs, to disperse a protest in Luanda, leading to one injured protester who was hospitalised after being attacked by a police dog. The protest demanded justice for the victims of torture and extra-judicial killings on 27th May 1977. A day earlier, a vigil to demand the release of the three sentenced protesters in Malanje was canceled.

On 16th December, police officers arrested 29 activists of the human rights organisation Associação para o Desenvolvimento da Cultura dos Direitos Humanos Em Cabinda (ADCDH; Association for the Development of Human Rights Culture in Cabinda) in Cabinda when they where heading to a to protest against human rights violations in Cabinda. The activists claim they had informed the Governor of the planned protest, and that the protest was not banned as they had not received a response. The activists were later released but some were required to present themselves to the police the next day. In an interview with Deutsche Welte, Silvio Sumbo said that activists of ADCDH are subject to threats and are being watched, resulting in two members having fled.

On 17th March, dozes people protested in Luanda to denounce a draft law that aims to tackle corruption but would allow people with 'hidden' money to repatriate the money without legal consequences. No incidents were reported, while media reports lauded the protest as the first political protest that was not repressed.

On 24th February, security officers arrested about 100 protesters during a protest in the Lunda Norte province. The protest was organised by the Movimento do Protectorado Lunda Tchokwe to demand autonomy of the Lundas provinces. About 70 protesters were released on 26th February, while the court ordered the release of the remainder of the protesters on 1st March, on grounds of unsufficient proof. As reported previously on the Monitor, protests of the Movimento do Protectorado Lunda Tchokwe in July 2017 were prevented by police brutality and intervention, while at least 38 protesters were arrested.