Open Letter to President João Manuel Lourenço
His Excellency Mr. President of the Republic of Angola, João
Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Marcy Lopes
Minister of the Interior, Eugénio César Laborinho
President of UNITA, Adalberto Costa Júnior
Governor of Luanda province, Manuel Gomes da Conceição Homem
Luanda, January 8, 2024
Subject: Systematic violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression in Angola
Your Excellency, Mr. President,
It is with great concern that Friends of Angola (FOA) has once again learned of the kidnapping of activist Laurinda Gouveia, her husband, and their two-year-old son, when they were trying to catch a cab after taking part in a peaceful demonstration on January 4 this year. The aim of the demonstration was to denounce and demand the arrest of the activists: Adolfo Campos, Gildo da Silva Moreira “Tanaice Neutro”, Hermenegildo André “Gildo das Ruas” and Abraão Pedro Santos, who were arrested in September 2023 for trying to organize a peaceful demonstration in Luanda.
Unfortunately, we also learned of the arrest of lawyer Zola Ferreira Bambi, without a judicial warrant, on February 6 this year. According to the complaint, Mr. Zola Bambi was placed under “house arrest” for more than four hours and then taken to. a Police Station, in Vila Alice.
It is common knowledge that Angola is going through a judicial crisis and that the Executive Branch has been the biggest violator of the Constitution and the fundamental rights of Angolans, including the right to freedom of assembly, expression, and thought.
Mr. President, the Executive Branch cannot continue to use the judiciary, the National Police, the State Intelligence and Security Service and the Provincial Governor of Luanda as a mere instrument to arrest those who have a different opinion, nor to intimidate Angolans who are unhappy with the current government policy and to cultivate terror and a culture of fear against all those who use their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.
Constitutional rights are non-negotiable and no one, including the head of the Executive Branch, has the right to violate the Constitution and continue to deny the fundamental rights of the Angolan people. These systematic violations have been growing in Angola, particularly during you mandate, and it is undoubtedly a violation of the Angolan Constitution and international human rights standards.
Angola is a state party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), instruments that protect the right to life, freedom of assembly and freedom of association (in articles 2, 20, 22 and 10, respectively). These rights are also protected by the Angolan Constitution.
During your speech at the inauguration ceremony as President of the Republic in 2017, you said the following: “We also intend to deepen the democratic rule of law, strengthening institutions and promoting the full exercise of citizenship, with more incisive action by civil society… it is therefore our responsibility to build a prosperous and democratic Angola, with peace and social justice.”
Contrary to your promises in 2017, Angola has been experiencing a decline in democratic values and fundamental freedoms, limiting Angolans from exercising their constitutional and universal rights, including the rights to freedom of assembly, demonstration and expression.
The recent illegal arrests or detentions of Angolan citizens, Article 333 of the new Angolan Penal Code, which condemns “offenses” against the figure of the President of the Republic and other organs of sovereignty, is not only an obstacle to freedom of expression and demonstration, but also a recent example that Angola is far from being a democratic state governed by the rule of law.
That said, Friends of Angola (FOA) demands that the Angolan authorities open an investigation with the aim of ascertaining the veracity of the facts mentioned here and bringing to justice those responsible for the systematic violations of the Angolan Constitution, as this is a clear violation of universally recognized human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, assembly and thought.
These crimes may not be solved due to a lack of political will and independence on the part of the judiciary, but they will be recorded in the annals of this nation’s history.
It is our wish and expectation that Mr. President will embrace democratic values, respecting Angolan citizens’ freedom of assembly and expression, so that we can finally build a prosperous and democratic Angola, with peace and social justice for all.
Friends of Angola