The series of violations of freedom of speech and assembly, as well as recurrent acts of persecution against all those who rebel against the dictatorial nature of the regime of José Eduardo dos Santos, gave rise, in recent weeks, to a taking of stances from several sectors who seek to tear the blanket of silence which covers Angola.
An example is the recent spread of a video in which several activists and personalities linked to the Angolan and Portuguese cultural circles – Kalaf, José Eduardo Agualusa, Ondjaki, Paulo Flores, Capicua or Filipe Melo – demand the release of 15 youths arrested in Luanda in June. The same is true of the concentration of 20 people next to the consulate of Angola in Lisbon on the 17th July which claimed freedom for the democrats arrested in Luanda and Cabinda. And there are more planned demonstrations for the next days in Luanda, Uige and Berlin. Throughout this text we’re presenting some of the latest episodes of a saga that takes place with the precious collaboration of large parts of the Portuguese and world political maps.
The Court: José Eduardo dos Santos’ political police
The recent arrest of 15 young Angolan activists is one of the latest chapters of this long record of political persecution. The detention took place on June 20, when they attended a political training course given by the journalist Domingos Cruz. The Angolan courts rushed to defend the lawfulness of the detention and to declare that the activities of the defendants represented a danger to the public order and national security. Some Angolan activists saw in this position an evidence of the lack of independence of the Angolan courts from political power. However, the Amnesty International has already come to denounce the profoundly undemocratic nature of these arrests.
Another case has to do with the sentencing of the Angolan journalist Rafael Marques by Angolan courts on the subject of the publication of the book “Diamantes de Sangue” (Bloody Diamonds). In this work the abuses perpetrated by the diamond companies against the populations of the Lunda provinces and of the Cuango district, which include torture and murders, are reported. Seven Angolan generals, appointed in the book as accomplices in such crimes, accused Rafael Marques of slander, having, during the trial, reached an agreement with the journalist, who accepted not to reissue his book on Angolan soil. However, the prosecution did not withdraw the charges, and Rafael Marques was sentenced to a suspended sentence of six months.
It is also worth mentioning the arrest of the lawyer Aarão Tempo, chairman of the Cabinda Provincial Council of the Bar Association of Angola. This lawyer was for two months under the surveillance of law enforcement agencies on charges of sedition. The courts are based on a visit to the border with Congo Brazzaville, where Aarão Tempo had come into contact with journalists who supposedly were to attend a protest demonstration against the government of Luanda.
With the collaboration of the “arci di poder”… and more
Over the past few years, the position of Angola in the international community has been strengthened. This is to a large extent because of the prominent place the country occupies in the production of commodities which are much sought after in the international market, with oil and diamonds at the head, and to another extent because of the end of the civil war and the adherence to a multiparty political system and an institutional architecture that is similar to the regimes that prevail in the West.
Angola has been seen as a sort of El Dorado on African soil for those looking for work fleeing from the crisis in Europe. Angola is even today regarded as a land of big buck business opportunities for large international corporations. Many ignore or pretend to ignore the extreme poverty and glaring social disparities that prevail in the Angolan society. Many ignore or pretend to ignore the obscene levels of corruption that reach all state hierarchy levels. Many ignore or pretend to ignore the public manifestations of distaste which the political and social situation in Angola generates.
Besides, the image of Angola as a growing country fails when it is known that tax revenue fell 50 percent in the first half of 2015 as compared to same period in 2014 by virtue of the sharp drop in oil revenues. Angola is the major African importer country to the south of the Sahara. When it comes to health, Angola reaches the shameful ranking of 7.7 doctors per 100,000 inhabitants.
Faced with an authoritarian and corrupt Angolan State and a judicial system that presents itself as a sort of political police of the José Eduardo dos Santos regime, it is urgent to demand that international bodies, ever so sensitive to crimes against human rights, do not be shy before such offenses. The same should be required of parties with parliamentary representation, including the Portuguese Communist Party, since, except for the Left Bloc, the S. Bento Palace [the Portuguese parliament] has been a scandalous example of complicity in regard to Angola. The MAS expresses its solidarity with all initiatives which in Angola, in Portugal and in the world, have denounced the corruption and the political persecution perpetrated by the regime of José Eduardo dos Santos.