The next president of Angola must guide the country out of the spiral of oppression that tainted the brutal 37-year reign of outgoing President José Eduardo dos Santos, Amnesty International said today as Angolans prepared to vote for a new leader.

The country goes to the polls on 23 August to elect a successor to Dos Santos, whose rule has been characterized by repeated attacks on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“José Eduardo dos Santos’ presidency is marked by his appalling human rights record. For decades, Angolans have lived in a climate of fear in which speaking out was met with intimidation, imprisonment and enforced disappearance” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“Whatever the result of the upcoming election, the next Angolan government must end the systemic abuse of the justice system and other state institutions to brutally silence dissent.”

Criticizing the president is currently considered a crime against the security of the state in Angola. Many of those who dared to denounce the president and the government, such as peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists, were jailed for lengthy periods or forcibly disappeared without a trace.

Criminal defamation laws were also regularly used to silence government critics, particularly journalists and academics, while the Law on Crimes against State Security was used to justify arbitrary detentions of those who showed any form of dissent.

“For years, Angolans have suffered human rights violations simply for daring to question the oppressive government of President Dos Santos,” said Deprose Muchena.

“The new administration must commit from the onset to the respect and protection of human rights for all people in Angola. That begins by ending undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, while building an atmosphere in which human rights defenders and civil society can work without fear of reprisals.”

Background

José Eduardo dos Santos has ruled Angola for almost 38 years unchallenged under the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party. Earlier this year, he announced his intention to step down after a general election.

Five political parties and one coalition are contesting the election.