STATEMENT BY KUTAKESA SUBMITTED TO THE 77TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
(through ASSOGE, Observer Member No. 532)
Arusha – October 2023
CLOSURE OF CIVIC SPACE IN ANGOLA
Excellency President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Honorable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbo
Commissioners; distinguished delegates; dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
All protocols have been observed.
In recent months, the approval of legislative measures that have worsened the economic and financial situation of citizens and resulted in further closure of the civic space, has generated caused peaceful protests due to the impact that these measures have had on the lives of the population in general and Civil Society Organizations in particular.
Associação Kutakesa is deeply concerned and hereby would like to report the following:
- On May 25, 2023, the government, via the MPLA, drafted and submitted for approval by the Angolan parliament a legislative initiative (NGOs Law) that undermines the freedom of NGOs, the right to assembly and free demonstration. NGOs were caught by surprise with the vote and approval of the DRAFT LAW APPROVING THE STATUTE OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS without prior public consultation.
- For Angolan civil society organizations, this draft law is a clear sign of interference by the executive branch in the work of NGOs, through the imposition of restrictions, excessive control and misalignment with the constitution and human rights principles;
- The existence of a prerogative that allows the government to terminate NGOs through administrative measures constitutes a permanent threat to NGOs and compromises their autonomy, freedom of association, the continuity of their work to promote and defend human rights and consequently contributes to the closure of the Angolan civic space;
- On April 15, the Angolan Students’ Movement (MEA) held peaceful demonstrations to call for an understanding between the government and the teachers and thus put an end to the ongoing strike in higher education. The demonstration was repressed by police officers who intimidated the students and took five of them into custody in an unmarked vehicle, including the president of the MEA, Francisco Teixeira.
- On September 13, 2023, the Jango Cultural movement, in the province of Huambo, was prevented from holding a seminar on Civic Participation in the province of Bié, Andulo, by the Municipal Administrator and agents of the Intelligence Services, on the grounds that such an activity is against the government and the President of the Republic.
- In early October, 130 people were arrested for holding demonstrations in the province of Lunda Sul, in the municipality of Saurimo.
These actions are not in line with the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly in Africa, the Guidelines on Policing by Law Enforcement Officials at Meetings in Africa and the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 37 on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, the provisions of the African Charter, namely Article 9 on freedom of expression and access to information, Article 10 on freedom of association, Article 11 on freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, Article 13 on the right to take part in the handling of public affairs, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely its Article 19 on freedom of expression, Article 20 on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and Article 21 on the right to take part in the handling of public affairs, which give every individual the right to express themselves, to assemble and express ideas and support decisions, as well as oppose those they do not agree with.
KUTAKESA therefore calls on the committee to urge the Angolan government to:
- Respect and protect human and peoples’ rights as enshrined in the African Charter, in particular the rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and to comply with its human rights obligations under the said Charter and other relevant regional and international human rights instruments that Angola has ratified;
- Dissipate tensions in the country and pursue a sustainable path towards the rule of law and democracy, as well as adopt public policies that are progressive in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights;
- Refrain from victimizing, harassing, intimidating and attacking human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations, peaceful demonstrators, leaders and pro-democracy activists through the arbitrary use of the police and security forces.
- Ask Parliament to withdraw the draft law that approves the Statute of Non-Governmental Organizations and to call for a process of broad consultation with Civil Society Organizations to ensure that any proposal for new laws intended to regulate the registration and operation of NGOs does not mean taking steps backwards in terms of protecting human rights.