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Angola: On The Lack of Human Rights

In the mood for the month celebrations for Human Rights Day, Angolan bloggers have a lot to say. The country has not yet ceased to be mentioned in reports about violations to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite holding a seat at the Human Rights Council for three years (2007/2010), the truth is that local authorities fail to respect citizens’ basic rights. There are several cases, ranging from sub-human prison conditions, arbitrary detention, and people forced from their homes without due compensation, to media censorship.

Eugénio Costa Almeida [pt] analyzes this dark panorama, mentioning a report released by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in which Angola is accused of not having produced reports on human rights  for thirteen years.

“Surpresa? Talvez, para uns quantos que andam arredados da realidade angolana e agarrados ao facto de Angola ser, desde Maio passado, um dos países com assento no conselho de Direitos Humanos para o triénio 2007-2010. Fui um dos que aplaudiu esta entrada. Para mim como para outros seria uma maneira de Angola mostrar que, paulatinamente, os Direitos Humano scomeçavam a fazer sentido no País. Ou seja, a entrada de Angola seria “um passo no caminho certo” como chegaram duas associações cívicas angolanas a dizê-lo. (…) “Mas quando energúmenos ameaçam – e fora de portas – angolanos (jornalistas ou comentadores) perante familiares; quando políticos são espancados e mortos por fiscais do próprio partido por falta de pagamento de quotas partidárias; quando um governador provincial é acusado de esbofetear e agredir trabalhadores e autoridades dessa província de tentarem anular a cultura regional; quando o caso Miala parece ir parir um rato e, provavelmente, os acusados serem mandados para casa e sem terem tido a oportunidade de expor em Tribunal as suas razões evocando este que as ditas estavam fora do processo embora tudo mostrasse que não; quando jornalistas do semanário “Agora” foram ameaçados por indivíduos que se dizem autoridades, durante uma inspecção dos mesmos a um mercado, tudo acaba, infelizmente, por ser muito natural. E, segundo alguns defensores angolanos dos direitos humanos, a violação dos Direitos Humanos em Angola vai acontecendo “Apesar dos esforços do Governo, continuam as detenções arbitrárias, por parte da polícia nacional” e sem que as autoridades centrais autorizem ou deles tenha real conhecimento. Quanto a isto, lamento mas tenho sinceras dúvidas. Ou seja, há um certo “deixa andar” e uma estranha liberdade na actuação e interpretação do que é ser “autoridade” e como lidar com a “liberdade”, com a “igualdade” e com os “direitos humanos”. E quem fica a perder são tão-somente Angola e os angolanos. Mas são actos que acabam por ter repercussões no continente africano e no modo como somos olhados pelos Ocidentais.”

“Surprise? Perhaps to a few who walk sidelined with Angolan reality and clinging to the fact that Angola is, since last May, one of the countries with a seat on the board of Human Rights for the three years 2007-2010. I was one of those who applauded this. For me and others, it would be a way for Angola to show that, gradually, human rights have started to make sense in the country. That's to say, Angola's participation would be “a step in the right direction” as two Angolan civil associations have said. (…) “But when these madmen threaten – openly – Angolan people (journalists or commentators) in front of their family members, when politicians are beaten and killed by their own party's tax officers because of non-payment of party quotas, when a provincial governor is accused of slapping workers and the province's authorities of trying to override local culture, when the Miala case* laboured and brought forth a mouse, and probably the accused will be sent back home without having the opportunity to explain their reasons in Court, which argued that their pledges were outside the process although everything showed the contrary, when journalists of the weekly paper “Agora” were threatened by individuals who claimed to be authorities, during their investigation into a market, everything ends up being, unfortunately, very natural. And, according to some Angolan human rights defenders, the violation of human rights in Angola happens “despite government efforts, there are still arbitrary arrests by the national police” without the central authorities allowing or having in fact knowledge of them. Regarding this, I am sorry but I have sincere doubts. So, there is a certain “let go” and an odd liberty in the interpretation of what is being “authority” and how to deal with “freedom”, “equality” and “Human rights”. And the losers shall be only Angola and Angolans. But these are acts that ultimately have an impact on the African continent and how we are seen by the West. “

*In September the former director of Angola’s External Security Services, General Fernando Garcia Miala, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by a military court for insubordination. He had failed to appear at a ceremony to demote him after he was dismissed from his post in 2006. Source Amnesty International Report 2008.

The lack of freedom of press in Angola led the blog of the political party FpD –Frente para a Democracia [Democracy Front, pt] to denounce cases of abuse, such as what has recently happened to a journalist imprisoned in Namibe province. A Radio Namibe reporter, Francisco Lopes, was taken for 30 days’ corrective imprisonment for, at the time of publication, unknown reasons:

“O gabinete de comunicação da FpD tomou conhecimento por notícia publicada pelo Apostolado de mais uma nódoa para os direitos humanos em Angola. E amanhã é já dia 10 de Dezembro, dia internacional dos direitos humanos.
Até quando vamos aceitar todas estas violações de direitos humanos? Até quando vamos continuar a aceitar este “desgoverno” que continua a espalhar amargura pelo povo angolano? Não se silencie, reenvie esta notícia do Apostolado a todos os seus contactos. Vamos ajudar este nosso irmão a ter justiça”.

“The FpD's public relations cabinet has learnt the news published by the Apostolado [newspaper] of a further stain on human rights in Angola. And tomorrow it is December 10, the international day of human rights. How long will we accept all these violations of human rights? Up to when will we continue to accept this “misgovernance” that carries on spreading bitterness among the Angolan people? Do not go silent, forward the Apostolado's news to all your contacts. Let's help our brother get justice.”

Angola Xyami [pt] blog brings news about a report launched in the US regarding human rights in the world:

“O Departamento de Estado americano acaba de divulgar o seu relatório anual. Este ano, o Sudão, a Síria e o Uzbesquitão foram acrescentados à lista dos piores violadores dos direitos humanos. Daquela lista constam igualmente a Bielorússia, Birmânia, Cuba, Eritreia, Irão, Coreia do Norte e Zimbabué. Relativamente aos PALOPS – Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa, o Departamento de Estado destaca o facto do governo de Cabo Verde respeitar, regra geral, os direitos dos seus cidadãos. Refere, contudo, que continuam a verificar-se problemas nalgumas áreas tais como a violência policial sobre detidos, as precárias condições nas prisões cabo-verdianas, longos períodos de detenção pré-julgamento, violência e discriminação relativamente às mulheres e exploração do trabalho infantil. Já em Angola, o Departamento de Estado americano conclui, no seu relatório, que a situação dos direitos humanos continua a deixar muito a desejar registando-se sérios problemas durante o ano transacto. Entre os problemas: impedimentos no que se refere ao direito dos cidadãos angolanos de elegerem os seus representantes oficiais a todos os níveis, assassinatos levados a cabo pelas forças armadas, polícia e forças de segurança privadas, torturas, violações e péssimas condições prisionais.
O relatório destaca também a corrupção e impunidades cometidas por entidades oficiais, detenções arbitrárias e falta de independência do aparelho judicial angolano. Ainda em relação a Angola, o Departamento de Estado salienta as restrições às liberdades de expressão, de imprensa e de reunião assim como os despejos sem indemnização de residentes de bairros desfavorecidos”.

“The U.S. Department of State has just disclosed its annual report. This year, Sudan, Syria and Uzbekistan have been added to the list of the worst violators of human rights. That list also included Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Among the PALOPS – African Countries with Portuguese as the Official Language, the State Department stressed that the government of Cape Verde meets, in general, the rights of its citizens. It notes, however, that there are still problems in some areas such as police violence against detainees, precarious conditions in Cape Verdean prisons, long periods of pre-trial detention, violence and discrimination against women and exploitation of child labor. As for Angola, the U.S. Department of State concludes in this report that the field of human rights still leaves much to be desired and there were serious problems over the past year. Some of the problems: the abridgement of citizens’ right to elect officials at all levels; unlawful killings by police, military, and private security forces; torture, rape and harsh prison conditions.
The report also highlights official corruption and impunity, arbitrary arrest and detention and lack of judicial independence. Also in relation to Angola, the State Department stressed restrictions on freedom of expression, press and assembly as well as evictions without compensation to residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods”

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  • Online Museum of the Victims of War in the D.R. Congo that aims to expose the ongoing invisible unacceptable barbarity of the war that has killed more than 5 millions people to the outside world.

    The Mobilization of Justice and Peace in the D.R. Congo (MJPC) announced today the launch of phase one of its online museum of victims of the war in the D.R.Congo. According to the project coordinator of the MJPC, Amede Kyubwa, the online museum aims to expose this war, remaining virtually invisible to the outside world despite ongoing unacceptable barbarity, and aims to expose how innocent people in Congo continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished.

    The online museum, available at http://www.yoursilenceoncongo.org , is currently developing its collections policy and plan to determine the scope of the collections. “The museum will make particular use of collected images/photos of the war victims and help prevent similar catastrophes in the future,” said Mr. Kyubwa.

    As part of denouncing the serious war crimes going unpunished in Congo, MJPC recently launched a petition to collect signatures demanding the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) to immediately arrest the notorious war criminal Nkunda. Concerned citizens from around the world are signing the petition, including those from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the USA, Kenya, Rwanda, France, German, Denmark, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Malawi, Burundi, Senegal, Nigeria, Spain, Japan, the UK, Venezuela, China, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Uganda. “There is no justification for MONUC, which has more than 17,000 troops in the DRC, to not take concrete actions to arrest Nkunda who is the subject of an international arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2005,” added Mr. Kyubwa.

    The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains the deadliest conflict since World War II. More than 5 million people, mostly civilians, have died in the past decade, yet the war remains unknown. A particularly horrifying aspect of the conflict is the mass sexual violence being used as a weapon of war. Estimates are now at more than 1.3 million displaced people in North Kivu Province alone and there are more than 370,000 Congolese refugees who have sought safety in neighboring countries.

    According to Mr. Kyubwa, the online museum is also designed to dignify victims by recognizing their suffering and raise public awareness regarding the importance of an urgent intervention in the eastern Congo to stop the ongoing impunity, sexual violence, crimes against humanity, and war crimes and to bring those responsible to justice without further delay.
    # # #

    About MJPC.
    MJPC (www.mjpcongo.org ) is a newly created organization seeking to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To visit the online museum of victims of the war in the Congo please visit http://www.yoursilenceoncongo.org . For information on signing the ongoing petition demanding the U.N. in Congo (MONUC) immediately arrest war criminal Nkunda, please visit our website. You may also call the project coordinator of MJPC, Amede Kyubwa at 916 753

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