In May, Angola was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. In November it ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and acceded to the UN Optional Protocol on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The agreement reached in 2006 to end the armed conflict in the province of Cabinda continued to be implemented. Ex-combatants from the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, FLEC) were incorporated into the Angolan Armed Forces in January. More than
60 military personnel held in Landana Military Prison for crimes committed during the conflict were released in January in accordance with the 2006 Amnesty Law. In August FLEC changed its name to the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda State (Frente de Libertação do Estado de Cabinda).
Legislative and presidential elections postponed to late 2007 were further postponed to 2008 and 2009 respectively. Voter registration, initially planned to end on 15 June, was extended to 15 September because of heavy rains and impassable roads which made it difficult to reach millions of people. More than eight million people registered to vote.
The cholera epidemic that broke out in 2006 continued and by the end of August had killed more than 400 people. The situation was aggravated by torrential rains in January and February in Luanda, which killed more than 110 people and destroyed about 10,000 houses, leaving an estimated 28,000 families homeless. A mystery disease, which caused sleepiness, vomiting and diarrhoea, appeared in Cacuaco District, Luanda in October, hospitalizing at least 400 and killing two people. In late November the World Health Organization said it was possibly caused by bromide poisoning.
In September the former director of Angola’s External Security Services, General Fernando Garcia Miala, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by a military court for insubordination. He had failed to appear at a ceremony to demote him after he was dismissed from his post in 2006. Three others – Ferraz António, Miguel André and Maria Domingos – were convicted of insubordination for the same reason and sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment. They lodged an appeal against the sentence.
Housing – forced evictions
Although fewer people were forcibly evicted than in previous years, the risk of forced evictions continued. Some of those forcibly evicted in 2007 were rehoused. However, the government made little or no attempt to rehouse or compensate hundreds of families repeatedly evicted from their homes in the Cambamba I, Cambamba II and Cidadania neighbourhoods since 2005. They continued to live without shelter in the ruins of their homes, at risk of further forced evictions.
About 200 families were left homeless after forced evictions in the neighbourhoods of Comandante Jika and Camama, in the municipalities of Maianga and Kilamba Kiaxi, Luanda, in July. In Comandante Jika a number of residents alleged that some of the alternative accommodation provided had been allocated to people from outside the area, resulting in some families being left with nowhere to go. They received no other compensation.
From July onwards, hundreds of families were forcibly evicted and had their homes demolished by the Jardim do Éden (Garden of Eden) construction company in the neighbourhood of Iraque in Luanda. Most were reportedly evicted by employees of the construction company, protected by private security guards and the national police. The forced evictions were carried out to make way for a luxury housing complex. No alternative accommodation or compensation was provided. In November, two journalists reporting on the evictions, António Cascais, a freelancer for the German radio station Deutsche Welle, and Alexandre Neto of the Angolan Radio Despertar, were assaulted by members of a private security company and detained for over three hours by the military police.
In Lubango, capital of Huíla province, between four and 20 families were reported to have been forcibly evicted in July to make room for a luxury hotel complex. Attempts were made to rehouse those affected, but the alternative housing was mostly in areas far from their workplaces and schools, and transport links and amenities were inadequate. They were not offered other forms of compensation.
Police and security forces
Human rights violations by police included arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as torture and ill-treatment leading to deaths in custody. Police officers responsible for these violations, and for violations committed in 2006, were not brought to justice.
- In February police officers arrested Francisco Levi da Costa and two other men after a shop owner accused them of attempting to steal three boxes of fish. The police took the men to the Eighth Police Station in Luanda, where they beat the men for four consecutive days. Allegedly, Francisco Levi da Costa was beaten on his head and lost consciousness, but police accused him of faking in order to be released. He died four days later in the police cell. No one was arrested in connection with his death. Police authorities informed Amnesty International that investigations were continuing.
- In March, police officers reportedly shot at Isaias Samakuva, president of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, UNITA), during a meeting at the party’s office in Ndalatando, Kwanza North province. A bullet reportedly hit the foot of a 14-year-old boy sitting on a wall outside the house. Isaias Samakuva was unharmed. The Kwanza North police commander stated that an investigation into the incident was being carried out. However, the results were not released by the year’s end.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions visited Angola in September and reported that prisoners were held in harsh and alarmingly overcrowded conditions.
In early October, prisoners at the Luanda Central Prison rebelled. The authorities claimed that two prisoners died and six were injured, but others said the number of casualties was much higher. One message sent from the prison reportedly said 80 prisoners had been killed in cell 11. Prison authorities denied this, stating that some of the prisoners had been transferred to Viana Central Prison. The Rapid Intervention Police (Polícia da Intervenção Rapida, PIR) was called in to control the prisoners and the crowds outside. Relatives of the prisoners demanded the list of prisoners transferred to Viana, as well as the names of those killed and injured. They attempted to march to the Presidential Palace but were prevented by police. Two days after the rebellion, the vice-Minister of the Interior promised that prison conditions would be improved.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders faced increasing intimidation and threats. In April the Director General of the Technical Unit for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, a government department, announced that the government would soon stop the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) “without a social impact”. In July he accused several NGOs of inciting violence and threatened to ban them: the Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy (Associação de Justiça, Paz e Democracia, AJPD); Mãos Livres; the Open Society Foundation (Fundação Open Society); and SOS-Habitat.
Raul Danda, a journalist and leader of a banned human rights organization, was informed in January that charges imposed on him after his arrest in Cabinda in September 2006 had been dropped, in accordance with the 2006 Amnesty Law. He had been charged with instigating, inciting and condoning crimes against the security of the state.
Freedom of expression
There were restrictions on freedom of expression. One journalist (see below) was sentenced to several months’ imprisonment and two journalists were briefly detained when reporting on forced evictions in the neighbourhood of Iraque (see above).
- In July, officers of the Provincial Criminal Investigation Police (Direcção Provincial de Investigação Criminal, DPIC) in Cabinda arrested four men during a mass celebrating the visit of the Vatican’s special envoy. They were carrying placards protesting at the appointment in 2005 of a non-Cabindan as the province’s Bishop. They were held in the DPIC headquarters for three days, then charged with injury to a public authority and inciting violence against a religious authority. They were released 10 days later, after a summary judgment at Cabinda Provincial Court. Pedro Maria António was acquitted, André and Domingos Conde were each sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, and Paulo Mavungo was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. The prison sentences were converted to fines and all sentences were suspended for two years.
- In October the Provincial Court of Luanda sentenced Felisberto da Graça Campos, director of the weekly newspaper, Semanário Angolense, to eight months’ imprisonment for defamation and injury to a former Minister of Justice (now the Justice Ombudsman). The charges arose from articles published in April 2001 and March 2004 accusing the then Minister of Justice of appropriating ministry funds. Felisberto da Graça Campos was detained in Viana Central Prison and was conditionally released in November pending the outcome of an appeal.
Violence against women
The Angolan authorities violently expelled thousands of Congolese migrants from diamond-mining areas in northern Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many of the migrant women expelled were reported to have been raped by the Angolan military during the expulsion.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Angola in February.
- Angola: Lives in ruins – forced evictions continue (AFR 12/001/2007)
- Above the Law: Police accountability in Angola (AFR 12/005/2007)