Angola: Where Peaceful Protest is a Crime

September 22, 2015

Rafael Marques de Morais

Police and security forces in Angola use the courts, dogs, batons, torture, and murder to attack citizens exercising rights guaranteed in their constitution and under international law. Journalist Rafael Marques is witness to nearly all these tactics as he documents corruption and rights violations in the country he calls home.

In June of this year, 13 young men gathered in a house in Luanda to discuss non-violent means to promote regime change. They were arrested when police stormed the meeting. Over the next few days, two more joined their ranks and another a few weeks later-all accused of plotting a coup. They are the 15+1 activists held in solitary confinement without official charges laid against them in Angola.

Prior to this, in May, Jose Marcos Mavungo was arrested leaving church. His crime-planning a peaceful protest in Cabinda, a northern oil rich province where a separatist movement provides the authorities an excuse to harshly suppress anyone who raises a voice in opposition to government policies. Two others, one an attorney, Arao Bula Tempo, were also arrested and alleged to be engaged in aspects of the planned protest. Mr. Mavungo, jailed for the past 6 months, was convicted this week and sentenced to 6 years in prison. The government maintains he was involved with explosives but never produced any direct evidence to tie him to the weapons. Mr. Tempo continues to be harassed by the government and denied travel to obtain necessary medical care.

Rafael Marques de Morais trial
Rafael Marques de Morais trial

There is a marked increase in repression of freedom of expression, assembly and association in Angola in the past few years. Protests are violently suppressed, activists disappeared and killed by state security forces, and the legal system used as a weapon to silence through prosecution and imprisonment.

Rafael Marques is intimately acquainted with his governments tactics. An anti-corruption and human rights journalist, he was convicted and sentenced to a six month suspended sentence in relation to a book he wrote about corruption, torture and murder in the diamond fields in Angola. Mr. Marques is repeatedly harassed by security forces but will not be silenced in his efforts to make his home a more equitable society for all Angolans.

Mr. Marques will be speaking at the Newseum in Washington DC on September 26th about all these cases as well as his experience as an investigative journalist operating in a repressive regime. The event is free but you must register.