The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2020/21. This report documented the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2020, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty International’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. During 2020, the world was rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic and measures taken to tackle it impacted everyone, but also threw into stark relief, and sometimes aggravated, existing inequalities and patterns of abuse.
In 2020, the security forces used excessive force to impose COVID-19 restrictions and dozens of people, including children, were unlawfully killed. Human rights defenders were arrested for disseminating health information and distributing masks and hand sanitizers to indigenous communities. The rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association were restricted and activists faced arbitrary arrests and detentions. Commercial farmers colluded with government officials to forcibly evict agro-pastoral communities from their land, undermining their rights to food, water and housing. The government failed to guarantee the right to food for low-income families during lockdown periods.
In February 2020, international media disclosed the “Luanda Leaks” which revealed how former President dos Santos’ daughter embezzled state funds in offshore bank accounts. In October of 2020, President Lourenço said that his predecessor’s administration illegally withdrew US$24 billion from the country through fraudulent contracts with state oil and diamond companies. Also in October 2020, the Public Prosecutor confiscated assets worth billions of dollars which had been acquired fraudulently by the former President’s military generals and his Vice-President.
Economic and social conditions worsened amid the groundswell of pressure from youth who protested against the high cost of living, demanding that the President fulfill his promise, made during the 2017 electoral campaign, to create 500,000 jobs.
On 27 March 2020, the government introduced a state of emergency which was followed by natural disaster regulations to address the COVID-19 pandemic. These remained in force until October and were used to impose arbitrary restrictions which undermined human rights. Lockdown measures restricting movement between provinces continued at the end of the year.
During the nine-month lockdown period, the government failed to guarantee the right to food, especially in low-income neighborhoods where most people depended on the informal economy for their livelihoods, for example by selling goods in the streets and daily markets.
The authorities took punitive measures against those in poor neighborhoods who were forced to leave their homes in search of food, an act which was criminalized under the state of emergency rules. While the government introduced a food relief programme for those living in poverty, families in the Luanda and Benguela provinces said they were not properly informed about who qualified for the aid or how the government decided which communities should benefit.1 Rural communities in the south were also disproportionately affected by food shortages as a result of an ongoing drought in the country.
The security forces used excessive force to impose restrictive COVID-19 measures which resulted in dozens of deaths. Most of those killed were young people, the youngest being a 14-year-old boy, and were from poor neighborhoods. In many cases, Angolan National Police (PNA) and Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) officers were reportedly responsible.2
On 17 June 2020, PNA officers stopped 20-year-old João de Assunção for not wearing a mask in the Palanca neighborhood. He offered to get his mask but the officers ordered him to perform acrobatics at gunpoint. When he said he was tired and ill, an officer fired into the air next to his head causing him to fall. Neighbors told the officers that João de Assunção suffered from a heart problem and hypertension. The police took him to Hospital Cajueiros, where he died the same day.
On 3 July 2020, the police shot and killed 15-year-old Mabiala Mienandi in Luanda province. At around 7am, he was playing soccer with friends. Witnesses said a police vehicle approached and, without warning, officers shot at the boys who ran for cover. Mabiala Mienandi was hit by a bullet, after which three policemen got out of their car and kicked him three times before driving away.
The next day, police officers shot 16-year-old Clinton Dongala Carlos dead as he returned from dinner at his aunt’s house in the Cacuaco municipality, Luanda province. According to witnesses, two FAA and three PNA officers pursued him and one of them shot him in the back.
On 13 July 2020, José Manuel was shot dead in the street in the Prenda neighborhood at around midnight. He and his 16-year-old friend, Maurício, heard local people shouting that the police were coming and while they were running away, a police officer fired at them hitting Maurício in the shoulder and killing José Manuel instantly.
These cases and others were under police investigation at the end of the year. No findings or information as to the progress of investigations were made public and impunity for such crimes remained widespread.
Those deemed to have flouted the COVID-19 restrictions, including political activists and human rights defenders, were subjected to arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture or other ill-treatment.
On 2 April 2020, nine human rights defenders from MBATIKA, a local civil society organization, were distributing information about COVID-19 and essential protective products like soap and sanitizer, to the San indigenous people and other traditional communities in Cuando Cubango province. Police beat them with batons and threatened them with guns before arresting them. They were released eight hours later without charge.3
On 4 April 2020, police beat 10 men in the street in Buco-Zau municipality, Cabinda province, then arrested them. Local people said that seven of them had been on their way to buy food. They were initially held together in one cell in poor conditions and released without charge at various points between 5 and 7 April 2020.
In 2020, The authorities continued to repress the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Cabinda province. Political activists and human rights defenders were harassed, beaten and arbitrarily detained. From September 2020 onwards, people regularly protested against widespread hunger, poverty and the high cost of living. Authorities responded with unlawful force, with security forces using water cannons, rubber bullets, batons and tear gas to unlawfully disperse the protesters.4
On 28 June 2020, plain-clothes police officers physically assaulted, arbitrarily arrested and detained Maurício Gimbi, President of the Union for the Independence of Cabinda (UIC), and André Bonzela, Director of the UIC President’s Office, at a taxi stop in Cabinda city. Some days before, Gimbi and Bonzela and their colleague, João Mampuela, UIC Vice-President, had displayed leaflets in Cabinda city bearing the slogan “Cabinda is not Angola” and calling for an “end to the right to bear arms”.
On 29 June 2020, the police searched João Mampuela’s home at 5am and arrested him after finding UIC leaflets. Charges brought against the three men included “rebellion”, “criminal association” and “outrage against the state”. In September, the Cabinda Court granted André Bonzela bail of 300,000 Angolan kwanza (US$350), a sum which he could not afford, and he remained in detention. Maurício Gimbi and João Mampuela were refused bail on grounds of prior criminal records. The records related to their participation in a peaceful demonstration in 2019 after which they had been charged with “outrage against the state” and “public disturbance and resistance”, among other trumped-up charges. The men remained in detention in Cabinda Province Civil Prison at the end of the year.5
Diversion of land use in favour of business, mainly in the southern province of Huíla, continued to devastate local pastoral and peasant farmer communities in 2020. Large scale farming landowners, as well as local authorities, blocked local communities from accessing their farmlands and diverted their water supplies to force them from their land. Civil society organizations who lodged formal complaints with the government, or took other action to try and halt evictions, received no response. The authorities failed to carry out meaningful consultations with the affected communities or to provide them with compensation or reasonable alternatives. Consequently, families were forcibly evicted from their land, denied their livelihoods, seriously undermining their rights to food, water, housing and health.
In August 2020, a spate of land diversion moves affected families. A commercial farmer initiated an extrajudicial process to evict the community of Kamphanda, a remote village in Gambos municipality, from their communal land. He coerced illiterate residents to sign over their land using their fingerprints.
In the same month, the Communal Administrator for Cainda, Quipungo municipality, made an order for communal agro-pastoral land farmed by local families to be fenced off and handed over to another commercial farmer. When residents protested, the local authorities threatened them with imprisonment.
Local government officials colluded with farming businesses to evict the Cuvangue communities from their land in the Matala municipality, in order to privatize areas of the Cunene river, blocking the communities’ access to water.
The water company, Água Preciosa, began an unlawful process to force the Tyihonguelo community, in Lubango municipality, from its communal land, home to hundreds of families, obstructing the canal that supplied their water.
By the end of 2020, the government had not acted to protect communities from forced evictions, or to protect their rights to basic necessities.
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