There were fewer reports of forced evictions and the government started to build social housing. Human rights violations by the police declined. Intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders continued: the authorities asked the UN office for human rights to close its office in Angola and sought to close down a local organization. Freedom of expression was restricted, with journalists facing harassment through defamation cases. A prisoner of conscience was sentenced to a long prison term.
Heavy rains in the provinces of Cunene, Namibe and Huíla led to floods which forced more than 10,000 people from their homes in February. About 50 other families had their homes destroyed by heavy rains in Huambo in November.
Angola became the largest oil-producing country in sub-Saharan Africa in April, surpassing Nigeria. Despite this, 68 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line, of whom 28 per cent lived in extreme poverty.
In February Angola extradited Henry Himomotim Okah and Eduardo Atata to Nigeria. Both men were suspected of being involved in attacks in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger delta.
About 30 detainees, including 10 women and a child, died in March when the building of the National Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) collapsed. Another 145 detainees were hospitalized. Although an investigation was carried out to establish what caused the collapse, its findings were not made public.
In March a Portuguese employee of a Portuguese company was shot in the arm and leg while driving a company vehicle. The Armed Forces of Cabinda, the armed branch of the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda State (FLEC), claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they would target foreign companies working in Cabinda to stop them from supporting the economy of Angola.
"...police officers told the youths to lie on their stomachs, shot them while they were lying on the ground and then drove off."
The first legislative elections in 16 years were held in September. They were generally free from violence and other human rights violations, despite some isolated incidents of harassment of political activists in the pre-election period. The main opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), initially demanded a re-run of the voting in the capital, Luanda, but eventually accepted the results which saw the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation for Angola (MPLA) win the elections with over 80 per cent of the votes.
Angola presented its combined initial, second and third report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in November. During this session the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the importance of implementing economic, social and cultural rights in Angola.
The government started to build houses under the Angola Youth programme, which aims to build one million social housing units by 2012. Following the September elections, the Ministry of Urban Affairs and the Environment became the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Housing. In October the UN World Habitat Day celebrations were held in Luanda. During these celebrations the government undertook to commit more than 10 per cent of oil income to social housing.
There were fewer reports of forced evictions than in previous years. Some of those forcibly evicted were reportedly re-housed. There were also reports that the government planned to re-house the families forcibly evicted in previous years from their homes in Cambamba I, Cambamba II and Cidadania neighbourhoods, but this had not happened by the end of 2008.
- In October at least 17 families were forcibly evicted and had their homes demolished by the Jardim do Éden (Garden of Eden) construction company in the Luanda neighbourhood of Iraque. The families claimed that they had had title to the land from the Kilamba Kiaxi municipality since 1989. Some residents reportedly received an amount between US$500 and US$2,500 as compensation. No alternative accommodation was offered to families who could not provide for themselves.
There were improvements in police policy, including the approval of a model of policing which regulates the use of force. Police did not appear to behave in a partisan manner and there were few reports of violence or human rights violations during the elections. However, there were a few cases of unlawful killing by the police.
- In July a group of about seven police officers went to the area of Largo da Frescura in a white, unmarked vehicle and opened fire on eight youths, killing them. The police officers claimed that they had responded to reports that a group of youths suspected of armed robbery were in the area and that the youths had fired shots at them. They claimed that they shot back in self-defence. None of the police officers was injured. Eye-witnesses stated that the police officers told the youths to lie on their stomachs, shot them while they were lying on the ground and then drove off. Seven police officers were arrested, but no trial had taken place by the end of 2008.
Human rights defenders
The environment for human rights defenders continued to be tense. In May the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Angola was closed at the request of the government. The authorities claimed that the Office did not have a legal mandate as it was a residue of the UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), which had been allowed to remain in the country at the end of the peace-keeping mission in 2002.
In September, the Procurator General instituted a case in the Constitutional Court to close down the Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy, alleging that the association’s founding documents include provisions that are contrary to Angolan law. No ruling was passed by the end of the year.
Freedom of expression – journalists
Restrictions on freedom of expression of journalists continued. A number of journalists faced harassment in the form of defamation cases.
In July the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Media jointly ordered the private radio station Rádio Despertar to suspend its broadcasts for 180 days, on the grounds that the station’s broadcasting range exceeded that stipulated in its licence.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
People were arrested for exercising their rights to freedom of association and assembly.
- In March police and members of the criminal investigative police stopped the annual pilgrimage celebration in Cabinda and refused to let more than 3,000 members of the Catholic Church continue with the pilgrimage. They were made to sit in the sun without water or food. Xavier Soca Tati and one other person were taken to the police station and questioned for several hours. They stated they had followed the necessary procedures before the pilgrimage but the police denied this. No charges were laid against any of the members of the Catholic Church.
- Police arrested and detained members of the Angolan Teachers Trade Union in Caxito, Bengo Province in October. They were striking against low salaries and poor working conditions. Manuel Bento Azevedo, Gonçalves Ismael Lopes, Moniz Mujinga, César Gomes António and Almério Augusto Cristóvão were arrested at the Mission School 307, accused of coercing other teachers to join in the strike. Another five teachers were arrested that week in different schools in Bengo Province. On one occasion the police did not have arrest warrants, but said they were obeying orders. All 10 teachers were released without trial two days after the initial arrest, but about five days later Manuel Bento Azevedo and two other union members were once again arrested. At the end of October all three were acquitted by the Bengo Provincial Court.
Prisoner of conscience
In September, José Fernando Lelo, former correspondent of the Voice of America in Cabinda, was convicted by a military court in an unfair trial and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for crimes against the state and instigating a rebellion in Cabinda. He had been arrested in November 2007 and held without charge until March 2008. Five soldiers who were tried with him were convicted of attempted armed rebellion and other military crimes and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. A sixth soldier was acquitted.
Amnesty International visitsIn October Amnesty International delegates applied for visas to Angola but they had not received the visas by the end of the year. No reason was given for the delay nor was any indication given as to when the visas would be granted. Amnesty International’s last visit to the country was in February 2007.
Amnesty International reports
Angola: Briefing for election monitors (1 August 2008)
Angola: Briefing for the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – 41st session, 3-21 November 2008 (1 October 2008)