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  July 23, 2015

5 Things You Can't Do In Angola

Regional Advocacy Director for Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) Muluka Miti-Drummond discusses the state of state repression in Angola.
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JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: What's up world, and welcome back to the Real News network. I'm Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

The introduction our next guest wrote for the piece about which we are to speak suits us perfectly. She wrote: When you think of Angola, most people think of the 20-year-long civil war, which ended in 2002. Some may even think of oil and diamonds. And if you know anything about African presidents you'll probably think of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the current president of Angola and Africa's second-longest serving president. What most people don't know is that there are a number of commonplace activities that could get you arrested in the country, and not just for a petty crime, but a crime against the security of the state.

Muluka Miti-Drummond wrote the piece published in Pambazuka News on behalf of the Southern Africa Litigation Center where she serves as regional advocacy director. Before that Miti-Drummond worked for nearly a decade as the researcher for Portuguese-speaking African countries at Amnesty International.

Welcome, Muluka Miti-Drummond, to the show. Thank you for joining us.

MULUKA MITI-DRUMMOND, SOUTHERN AFRICA LITIGATION CENTER: Thank you, and thanks for having me on the show.

BALL: And I should say that you're joining us now from Johannesburg, South Africa, and we greatly appreciate it.

But if you would, let's start with what you said in the piece and tell us about the five examples of increased state repression you cite as happening in Angola now.

MITI-DRUMMOND: So yes, we are concerned about state repression and the arrest of individuals in Angola. And a lot of them have been arrested for crimes against the security of the state. And one of the things I said is for organizing demonstrations, that people are arrested for organizing peaceful demonstrations. We're not talking about violent demonstrations or mobs here, but people who are peacefully demonstrating, protesting bad governance, what they consider as bad governance and human rights violations.

A perfect example is Jose Marcos Mavungo, who is a human rights defender in the Cabinda province of Angola. He was arrested on the 14th of March in connection with organizing a peaceful demonstration. He still remains in detention right now, and still awaiting trial, and he has been accused of rebellion which is a crime against the security of the state. So that was the first example.

A second example was you can be arrested for organizing, having journalists or inviting journalists over to Angola to cover demonstrations. An example of this is Arao Bula Tempo, he's a lawyer. And he was accused of going to the Congo, which is close to Cabinda, close to Angola as well, to invite journalists to cover this demonstration that was being prepared by Jose Marcos Mavungo and other people. Arao denies that he was actually doing that. He states that he was going near the border with the Congo to meet with business partners. However, as you can imagine, just inviting journalists to a country to cover a demonstration, even if he had done that, would not be, should not be seen as a crime. He is accused of a crime, again, a crime against the security of the state. And the crime is collaborating with foreigners to destabilize the state, or something to that effect.

So once again, these are commonplace issues. You may be doing a demonstration in your country and ask journalists from other countries to come and see, or international journalists, and that could get you into trouble in Angola.

The third thing that I talked about was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or associating with the wrong people. So when Arao Bula Tempo was traveling towards the border of the Congo, he had another business partner with him. And this person, Manuel Biongo, unfortunately was also arrested with Arao Bula Tempo. And he has also been charged, despite the fact that there is no evidence that he was involved in any of this, has also been charged with collaborating to destabilize the state.

And actually, we just got some news in a few hours ago as well that a journalist from [dachavele] and other human rights defenders, Rafael Morais from an organization known as SOS Habitat, and two others from an organization called Umunga were actually visiting people who had been arrested on 20 June in prison. And we have received reports that they have actually been arrested this evening. So again, this is an example of being arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or associating with the wrong people.

The fourth thing is talking about politics. Raising concerns about democracy in the country, or the political situation in the country. On the 20th of June, a number of youths--these are youths who have been involved in demonstrations, organizing peaceful demonstrations in the country, met to discuss politics, their views of the politics in the country. And they had a book which talked about the peaceful ways of bringing an end to a dictatorship. And they were arrested, and they have been accused of attempting to overthrow the president and an attempt against the life of the president.

So 13 were arrested on the 20th of June. Following that others had their homes searched, and were in formed that in these cases they had no arrest warrant, and they only had a search warrant in one case, as far as we are aware of. And so these people were arrested for this meeting, and accused of attempting to overthrow the government, and attempting the life--against the president.

And again, this goes back to organizing demonstrations. Because these are youth activists that have been organizing demonstrations in Angola since 2011. And I think that is part of the reason why they were seen as suspicious. They are not military personnel. They--as far as we know they do not have access to any military weapon. They are a bunch of concerned youth citizens in Angola, and they're being accused of attempting to overthrow the state. They have not been given bail, so they remain in detention. One month is--it's just over a month since they were arrested, and they remain in detention.

And the fifth one that we referred to, that I referred to in the article, is writing or reading. Some people may have heard of the journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. He was arrested for writing a book, in connection with a book he wrote, which connected military personnel to human rights violations in the diamond mining areas of Angola. He has been convicted of criminal defamation for writing this book. Criminal defamation is not a crime against the security of the state, but there have been cases in the past. We have Manuel Nito Alves, who is actually one of the youths who were arrested. And he in 2012 was arrested for printing a T-shirt which had the words 'Out, disgusting dictator'.

BALL: So Muluka, if I could jump in here for--we only have a couple of minutes left, and I want to see if we can ask a very difficult question and have you respond to it in a very short period of time. I wanted to ask, what relationship does the United States play to this? And specifically, the Africa Command, and the militarization of the continent. And perhaps even as I've seen some people suggest, that there is a fear that any freedom or room given to protesters as those, or potential protesters, as those you've described in this interview, could lead to not only a regional but a continental response or uprising that the West fears. In part why the United States has led this initiative of militarizing or working with the militaries of Africa, of countries throughout the African continent.

So in other words, is there an AFRICOM relationship to this specifically? Or more broadly speaking, something from the United States backing these--dos Santos, or these initiatives. And finally if you would just in addition to answering that, tel us what you would like people to do in response. So thank you, please do what you can to address that in a short period of time.

MITI-DRUMMOND: Thank you. I would--I mean, it's hard--there has been no evidence. I'll just say that there is no evidence that there is any connection between AFRICOM and militarization in the region and the demonstrations in Angola. Peaceful demonstration should not be a threat to anyone, to any government. Any democratic government should not see peaceful demonstrations as a threat. They're definitely not a threat in the country and should not be a threat in the region. They're actually good for political participation. They're actually good for democracy, and they're good for holding government accountable. And I refer to peaceful demonstration.

With regards to what we would like people to do, is to be a bit more vocal about the situation in Angola. It's not a country that very many people talk about, and to lobby the government of Angola to stop these unnecessary, these arbitrary arrests and detentions of individuals, and to respect their own international obligations. They have signed human rights treaties that call for them to respect freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate, to peacefully demonstrate, and they need to be held accountable for that.

BALL: Well Muluka Miti-Drummond, thank you very much for joining us here at the Real News Network. We appreciate your time.

MITI-DRUMMOND: Thank you so much for your time.

BALL: And thank you for joining us here at the Real News. And for all involved, I'm Jared Ball. And as always as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you're willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody. We'll catch you in the whirlwind.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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