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Angola at boiling point as govt cracks down on media, social unrest looms

All the symptoms of a dictatorship are found in this country of 18 million people: lack of freedom of expression, election rigging, state corruption, torture, crackdown on critical media, massive poverty, excessive abuse of power and violation of human rights, ruling party elite's self-enrichment, nepotism and arbitrary arrests, among others.
Analysts believe one of Africa's top oil producers is on the verge of boiling point as 75% of poor people have had enough of living in the margins of society.

Sensing the danger that threatens its 36 years in power amid the Egyptian and Tunisian successful revolutions, the MPLA government has been mercilessly cracking down on critical media, detaining journalists and sentencing some to lengthy jail terms, and warning others that they are playing with fire.

'Living in fear'

"We are living in fear. The government is watching every move we make, believing that we might be stoking the fire and drive people to revolt. We are all scared because our colleagues have been unfairly arrested, jailed and killed," a local journalist told this week, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location in Angola.

Teixeira Candido, deputy secretary-general of the Sindicato dos Jornalistas Angolanos (Syndicate of Angolan Journalists - SJA) has vehemently condemned the government's crackdown, calling on the country's authorities to end what he calls 'excessive and bullying police actions committed against journalists in the exercise of their duties'.

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres is also said to be shocked by 'the growing problems that Angola's journalists are experiencing and the mistrust and hostility that the authorities are showing towards some media'.

Human Rights Watch has accused Angola of stifling the opposition and arresting journalists and activists to pre-empt anti-government protests, while the Committee to Protect Journalists has slammed the Angolan government for crudely attempting to silence coverage of an opposition movement.

Investigative journalist Rafael Marques told Agence France-Presse last week: "What outrages the people is that Angola is a rich country. The government knows well that the level of discontent is growing."

Protest march blocked

A protest march which was due to take place on 7 March did not take place as security forces prematurely arrested 15 people, including three journalists of the Novo Jornal daily and a rapper well-known for his inflammatory lyrics against the president.

"We are tired of living a dog's life, and I think it is time we took the bull by the horns and chased Ze Du (the head of state) and his evil friends who killed a lot of people and looted the country," former army soldier Armando Costa (not his real name) told last week in Johannesburg shortly before going home 'for good' to join the ranks of what he called a 'historic' revolution.

Would-be protesters said they were targeting President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979 and his 'corrupt' friends of the ruling MPLA.

MPLA's reliable sources estimate Dos Santos and his family's fortune to be between 80 and US$100 billion, which is secretly kept in various banks in South Africa, Portugal, UK, Switzerland, China and US.

"We're currently thinking of other open-air places in Luanda where the protesters can meet," AFP quoted London-based Cabinda-born Mangovo Ngoyo, one of the organisers, as saying.

About Issa Sikiti da Silva

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to as a senior news writer.


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