The Angolan authorities are tightening their grip on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association by preventing civil society meetings from taking place ahead of the general election in August, Amnesty International said today.
On 21 May, Angolan police prevented two NGOs — Omunga, and Associação para Desenvolvimento da Cultura e Direitos Humanos (ADCDH) — from holding a conference on peace building. The police blocked the entrance to Hotel Maiombe in Cabinda to prevent attendees from entering, saying they were following orders from their superiors.
“The harassment and intimidation of activists and repression of civil society organizations, who are merely exercising their rights and trying to hold a conference, is a worrying development for human rights in Angola — especially ahead of the August election,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
“By harassing and intimidating the activists and preventing this conference from taking place, the authorities are showing their growing intolerance of criticism. The repression of independent civil society organizations, debate and critical views on issues such as the economy and human rights must stop.
“The muzzling of this civil society conference is reminiscent of previous election years, when human rights came under repeated attack. The Angolan authorities must stop targeting activists and civil society groups and instead respect, protect and promote their human rights and provide a conducive environment for them to operate.”
Guest speakers scheduled to present at the meeting included the economist Belchor Tati, human rights lawyer Arao Tempo, Father Celestino Epalanga of the Catholic Church, and Rev. Dr. Daniel Ntongi-Nzinga, a peace building activist and pastor of the Baptist Church.
The conference was not being held at a public venue. It was a private event that was taking place in a private venue. By banning attendees from entering, the authorities violated the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which is enshrined in the Angolan Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Angola is a state party. Angola authorities must end the repression and harassment of independent Angolan civil society.
Cabinda, which is Angola’s most militarized province, tightly restricts civic space. The province has been mired in an armed conflict between government security forces and the rebel group Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC).
Restrictions on the operations of civil society organizations and civic space have been increasing in Angola in recent months. On 9 April 2022, the police arbitrarily arrested 26 young people who were planning a march to demand the release of political prisoners. They were accused of disobeying and insulting the police.
All of the 26 detainees were eventually released, although the two organizers were convicted and made to pay fines.