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(Johannesburg) – The Angola The government must immediately end its long-running crackdown on political and human rights activists in the oil-rich province of Cabinda, Human Rights Watch said today.

Since President João Lourenco took office in September 2017, authorities in Cabinda have arbitrarily arrested and detained more than 100 activists for their involvement in human rights and pro-independence activities in the province. In the most recent major incident, on March 25, 2023, police taken into custody 3 organizers and 45 participants attending the Human Rights Workshop.

“The Angolan government is tightening the repression of Cabinda activists,” said zenida machado, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government must end its wrongful arrests and respect the rights of the people of Cabinda to peacefully demonstrate and protest.”

On the morning of 25 March, Angolan security forces in eight pickup trucks raided Colegio Privado, a private school in Cabinda, smashing into a classroom where dozens were attending a human rights workshop organized by Concas Chaplains, a Christian NGO. Were staying Several participants told Human Rights Watch.

Police officers detained workshop trainer, Congo-Brazzaville national, Ivec Kawada Rock, and confiscated training materials including several notebooks, a slide projector, a computer and participants’ handbags. Witnesses said the security forces neither presented a court order nor provided identification or grounds for the raid.

One participant who was detained for several hours said, “It looked like a police raid on a drug factory.” “They rounded up all the participants and put us in their pickup trucks.”

Media and many activists reported that police arrested 45 participants at the site. Their lawyers said the police arrested the three organizers of the workshop from their homes the same day. Most were questioned and released over the next 48 hours, but their lawyers said seven had been charged with criminal association and insurrection, which carries a criminal sentence of up to eight years in prison.

Those charged and detained include Kawada Rock and prominent Cabinda civil society Leaders Alexandre Kwanga, Alberto Macoso, Gomes Tanguy, Francisco Lufuilo, Matus Gimbi and Wilfrido Gomes. A lawyer providing free legal aid said all seven were released between the last week of April and the first week of May and are awaiting trial.

“I wasn’t even at the meeting, but they came to pick me up and then put me in an overcrowded prison for over a month without any good reason,” said Kwanga, president of the Cabinda Human Rights Association. They alleged that Cabinda officials tried to intimidate local activists and used state institutions to crack down on free assembly rights.

The human rights situation in Cabinda has remained poor since President Lourenco took office in 2017, with several activists arrested for exercising their fundamental rights. In this regard, Lourenco followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, President José Eduardo dos Santos, respond to the situation in the province with Violent crackdown on peaceful protesters and activists, among other abuses.

Angolan official All requests are rejected by Cabinda Freedom activists to demonstrate peacefully, contrary to the Angolan Constitution, the African Charter on the Rights of Human and Peoples, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. the police have violently interrupted marches and protests and arbitrarily detained participants.

In June 2020, police officers in plain clothes arbitrarily arrested The president and his vice president of the Separatist Federation for the Independence of Cabinda after displaying the organization’s leaflets on the city streets of Cabinda. Their lawyers allege that the police officers manhandled the two during their arrest.

In January 2020, the State Security Force wrapped up Activists driven from their homes in December 2019 after trying to hold a demonstration demanding independence from Angola.

Between January 28 and February 1, 2019, police arrested 63 Cabinda independence activists ahead of an announced protest to celebrate the anniversary of the signing Treaty of 1885 who gave Cabinda the status of protector of the colonial Portugal, Many activists were members of the Movino Independista de Cabinda (Independence Movement of Cabinda), a peaceful movement. separatist group that seeks independence Or autonomy from Angola.

On August 10, 2018, police arrested 13 activists advocating for Cabinda’s independence during a meeting to hold a public debate on the enclave’s autonomy. A week later, a court acquitted the group of charges of crimes against state security, ruling that the meeting was not illegal.

“Arresting people simply for advocating their rights fuels discontent among Cabinda’s population,” Machado said. “The Angolan authorities must stop attacking activists and withdraw all charges against those jailed without credible evidence of breaking the law.”

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