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Angola - Politics

The youth are not attached to anyone. They grew up until they were 10 or so, and then the war is over. So that detachment formed the old leadership to the new one will cause some problems. Forty percent of the Angolan population is under 18. So those don't count now, because they don't vote. But, in 10 years time, that will be the biggest part of the population. In five years time even. And they will want to have their problems addressed - mostly living conditions, salaries, and employment.

USAID funded a public opinion survey that was conducted in seven of Angola's 18 provinces from December 2008 to January 2009. The survey showed that solid majorities of Angolans believe the country is headed in the right direction, favor additional elections at the local, regional, and presidential levels, and consider the level of corruption in Angola to be either "high" or "very high." Angolans rated jobs, poverty, education, health and sanitation, and water as their five greatest daily concerns. Of survey participants who voted, 70.4% of those who voted reported confidence that the elections were free and fair. Some 72.3% said they voted for the MPLA in the survey, whereas the MPLA won 81.6% at the national level on election day. Angolans had favorable views of President dos Santos (81.2%), the national government (83.2%), and provincial government (81.6%). Fewer respondents had favorable views of opposition figures like UNITA President Isaias Samakuva (42.5%).

José Eduardo Dos Santos celebrated his 70th birthday amid a heated electoral campaign. He is an African icon, tied to the fate of his country. His 32 years in power, through war and peace, has made this son of a mason and of a maid one of the most important people in Angola's tormented history.

Born in a poor neighborhood of Luanda, Dos Santos was only a teenager when he entered a clandestine group to fight Portuguese rule in Angola. He joined the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola. He then spent seven years studying petroleum engineering in the Soviet Union. When he returned to Angola, he rose through the ranks of the MPLA, eventually taking over its leadership after the death of Agostinho Neto. In 1979, the 37-year-old Dos Santos began his long reign in the newly-independent and already war-torn country.

After 27 years of civil war with the opposition party UNITA, Dos Santos's party, backed by the the Soviet Union and its successor, Russia, and Cuba, crushed its opponent, bringing the country to peace in 2002. Four years later, he was elected president with 82 percent of the vote. The height of his popularity was the 2008 election. He was really popular because he brought the end of the civil war. He still got a lot of support from his peers during the war and and the people who supported the MPLA during the civil war. There was a lot of constructions, until now there is a lot of of construction. Rebuilding the country's infrastructure has been a priority for Dos Santos. But despite of the country's current booming economy, Dos Santos has alienated the nation's youth, who feel left out of the economic boom.

In 2012 the media claimed that Dos Santos was already preparing his succession by naming Manuel Vicente, the former leader of the Sanangol national oil company, into the political bureau. The MPLA denied this, but Vicente was on the MPLA ballot in 2013 for vice president.

The three most important human rights abuses are official corruption and impunity; limits on the freedoms of assembly, association, speech, and press; and cruel and excessive punishment, including reported cases of torture and beatings as well as unlawful killings by police and other security personnel. Other human rights abuses included: harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; impunity for human rights abusers; lack of judicial process and judicial inefficiency; infringements on citizens’ privacy rights and forced evictions without compensation; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination and violence against women; abuse of children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities, indigenous people, and persons with HIV/AIDS; limits on workers’ rights; and forced labor. The government took limited steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses; however, accountability was weak due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, a culture of impunity, and widespread government corruption.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces often did not respect these prohibitions in practice. According to several NGO and civil society sources, police arbitrarily arrested individuals without due process and routinely arrested individuals who participated in antigovernment protests, despite this right being protected by the constitution. Police used this tactic to prevent protests from taking place. They often released the detainees after a few hours but reportedly sometimes kept them for days. For example, in August 2012 police arrested up to 14 members of the opposition party Broad Consensus for National Salvation-Electoral Coalition (CASA-CE) for gathering in front of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) and protesting against irregularities in the electoral process. Police held the protesters in jail for two days, one of which was voting day, before being released without charge.

Individuals reported practicing self-censorship but generally were able to criticize the government without fear of direct reprisals. The government engaged in subtle repression and economic coercion, often in the form of withdrawing business or job opportunities, to discourage criticism. Multiple sources reported that citizens often curtailed their support of an opposition political party because they would suffer reprisals from MPLA supporters.

There were 13 privately owned weekly newspapers and eight Luanda-based commercial radio stations. All but two of these publications, Folha 8, and Agora, were rumored to be owned by groups or individuals tied to the government. Nongovernment radio stations could broadcast only in provinces where they physically established antennas. The government allowed only government-owned Radio Nacional to use repeaters to expand signal reach and was thus the only station broadcasting in much of the country. As a result most private radio stations could reach audiences only in Luanda.

Defamation is a crime punishable by imprisonment or a fine, although the burden of proof is on the party accused of defamation to provide evidence of the validity of the allegedly damaging material. On 12 March 2012, the criminal investigation police raided the office of Folha 8 and confiscated equipment including computers and hard disks. The search warrant alleged a charge of “outrage against the president,” a crime under the 2010 Law on Crimes against the Security of the State. The charge was based on a cartoon circulating on the Internet and republished in Folha 8 in which the president and two senior officials were depicted as thieves. The case was unresolved at year’s end.

Although the constitution and law provide for the right of assembly, the government regularly restricted this right. Dos Santos faced a challenge in 2011 from a burgeoning local youth protest movement. Inspired by uprisings in North Africa that toppled several leaders, it staged several street rallies urging him to resign. The movement was not deterred by police crackdowns that resulted in violent clashes and arrests, which obliged Dos Santos to make a public call for dialogue and smooth change rather than radical upheaval. But observers believe Angola's recent history in emerging from a bloody post-independence civil war, coupled with the existing power structure and government policies, would mitigate the impact of the protest movement.

At least 13 public demonstrations took place during 2012; police detained persons during at least nine of these demonstrations. The law requires written notification to the local administrator and police three days before public assemblies are to be held, but it does not require government permission for such events. However, the government at times prohibited events based on perceived or claimed security considerations. Participants potentially were liable for “offenses against the honor and consideration due to persons and to organs of sovereignty.” Police and administrators did not interfere with progovernment gatherings or gatherings organized by opposition political parties. However, nonpartisan groups intending to criticize the government or government leaders often met a heavy police presence and government excuses preventing them from carrying out the event. Usually authorities claimed that the timing or venue requested was problematic or that the proper authorities had not received notification.

Media reported fights between supporters of the two main political parties, the ruling MPLA and opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), throughout 2012, especially in the months leading up to the August elections. On January 18 and July 14, UNITA supporters killed a total of six MPLA supporters in separate fights in Huambo Province. The government arrested offenders in both cases, but it was unknown if they prosecuted those responsible.

On 31 August 2012, the government held legislative elections and the country’s first postwar presidential elections. According to the new constitution passed in 2010, presidential and legislative elections should be held regularly every five years. The ruling MPLA won 71.8 percent of the vote in the legislative elections. Domestic and international observers reported that polling throughout the country was peaceful and generally credible, although the ruling party enjoyed advantages due to state control of major media and other resources.

Opposition parties criticized many aspects of the electoral process, including ruling party control of the major media, late disbursement of public campaign funds, the CNE’s failure to accredit some opposition and civil society electoral observers, and the large number of people who were unable to vote because they were either not registered or were registered in a location far from their residences. These and other irregularities led to an abstention rate of 37 percent, much higher than the 13 percent abstention rate recorded in the 2008 legislative elections. Opposition parties contested the electoral results but accepted their seats in the National Assembly. On September 19, the Constitutional Court rejected opposition appeals and certified the election results as free and fair.

The ruling MPLA party dominated all political institutions. Political power was concentrated in the presidency and the Council of Ministers, through which the president exercised executive power. The council can enact laws, decrees, and resolutions, assuming most functions normally associated with the legislative branch. The National Assembly consists of 220 deputies elected under a party list proportional representation system. This body has the authority to draft, debate, and pass legislation, but the executive branch proposed and drafted legislation for the assembly’s approval. After the August 2012 legislative elections, opposition deputies held 20 percent of the parliamentary seats, a 7 percent increase from 2008.

Opposition parties stated their members were subject to harassment, intimidation, and assault by supporters of the MPLA. UNITA continued to argue that the MPLA had not lived up to the terms of the 2002 peace accord, and former combatants lacked the social services and assistance needed to reintegrate into society. Former combatants also reported difficulties obtaining pensions due to bureaucratic delays or discrimination. During the year UNITA reported that its members suffered intimidation and harassment. For example, government authorities denied electricity and water access to UNITA headquarters in at least three provinces. Opposition party members and civil society leaders cited examples of political intolerance during the 2012 election process.

Angola's main opposition parties say authorities have killed hundreds of people in attacks on a religious sect. The alleged attacks followed the death of nine police officers as police tried to seize the leader of the sect. In mid-April nine police officers were killed during a raid in Huambo province aimed at capturing Jose Kalupeteka, leader of an outlawed sect called "The Light of the World."

Angolan officials deny the accusation. They say the popular firebrand preacher Kalupeteka was captured and just 13 sect members were killed. Kalupeteka, who formed “The Light of the World” church in 2001 after he was expelled from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, had thousands of followers across Angola. He preached that the world will end in 2015, encouraging followers to abandon their belongings and live in seclusion.

Seventeen Angolans accused of planning a rebellion and coup went on trial in Luanda in November 2015, in a case that rights groups said showed the government's intolerance of dissent. Authorities arrested the young activists in June 2015 after they met at a book shop to discuss a book called "From Dictatorship to Democracy." By March 2016 the prosecution has produced no concrete evidence to substantiate the charges. As the house arrest measure must be reviewed every two months, the judge, without any explanation, ruled that the group continued to pose a threat to public order and might cause disturbance.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, one of Africa's longest-ruling leaders, said 11 March 2016 he would quit politics in 2018 following the end of his current term. Speaking to leaders of the ruling MPLA party in the capital, Luanda, dos Santos said, "I have taken the decision to leave active politics in 2018." Dos Santos, who has led Angola since 1979, has hinted at retiring before but always remained in office.

Dos Santos did not indicate a preference about who might succeed him. Among those being mentioned are his vice president, Manuel Vicente, and his son, Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos. Some MPLA members suggested Vicente’s experience as vice president means he’s best qualified to carry out the party’s policies. But others note Vicente was mixed up with corruption problems. He had lost credibility for the moment, which meant that the MPLA and dos Santos and the leadership were really in a bad position in the country.

There had been, over the last couple of years, frenzied speculation that her father was grooming Isabel dos Santos, to become president of Angola. But that speculation was a bit political and a bit naive, for two reasons. Firstly, Isabel dos Santos was born outside of Angola. Constitutionally in Angola, you can only run for president if you’re born in the country. Secondly, race politics plays a role in Angola. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola has a history of drawing from black Angolans for its presidency. And that politics is still very much alive and well in Angola.

State radio said 02 December 2016 that the ruling MPLA party had decided that the minister of defense, Joao Lourenço, will be the party´s presidential candidate in the 2017 elections, scheduled for August 2017. The president had previously said he will leave national politics in 2018, but this was the most tangible evidence to date that he will follow through with that plan. Opposition to his rule has grown as the Angolan economy struggles amid the prolonged slump in global oil prices.

João Lourenço was appointed vice president of the MPLA in August 2016. He was born in 1954 in Benguela and received military training in the Soviet Union between 1978 and 1982. He is a longtime member of the ruling party and speaks Portuguese, English, Russian and Spanish. Between 1998 and 2003, he was the party´s secretary general and in 2014 became vice president of the National Assembly.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said 03 February 2017 that he will not seek re-election, signaling the end of his nearly four decades in power. Dos Santos told a conference of the ruling MPLA party in Luanda that Defense Minister Joao Lourenco will stand as the party's number-one candidate in the next election, scheduled for August 2017.

Angola held orderly elections on 23 August 2017. The ruling MPLA party won the parliamentary elections, but lost ground to the opposition, the electoral commission said citing provisional results. The MPLA took 61.1 percent of the votes counted compared with the opposition UNITA party's 26.7 percent, results showed. Out of the nine million registered voters, about 23 percent did not go to the polls. The electoral commission said the MPLA had won 150 of 220 parliamentary seats in the National Assembly, giving them the two-thirds majority needed to pass any legislation without help from another party. UNITA's share of seats rose from 32 to 51.

Since he was elected in August 2017, Angolan President João Lourenço made moves which surprised the nation. In addition to changing military intelligence chiefs, he also dismissed Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the ex-president José Eduardo dos Santos, from the council presidency of the national oil company Sonangol. In December 2016, Lourenço replaced José Eduardo dos Santos as the leader of the ruling MPLA party and assumed the country’s presidency after obtaining a parliamentary majority in the August elections.

The National Defence minister, Salviano de Jesus Sequeira, deemed astute, right and intelligent the way the Angolan President, João Lourenço, placed governmental cadres in the different departments of the state, giving privilege to competence and merit to strengthen the country's institutions, aimed at using the best solutions to solve the problems facing the nation. "The year 2017, which is just about to end, has a historical landmark for our country, for in sequence of the 23 August General Elections a new republic was born and, consequently, a new Executive led by His Excellency Comrade President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the FAA, who is committed to fighting corruption, impunity, nepotism, waste and swindling of public funds (...)", reads the document.

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Page last modified: 03-01-2018 18:32:38 ZULU