Defending democracy?

Angola: UNITA continue to protest election results as reports of unlawful detentions grow

By Jaysim Hanspal

Posted on September 2, 2022 12:43

 © A woman walks past police officers as Angola’s election commission says ruling MPLA party leads with 52% majority, after the general election close in Luanda, Angola August 25, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
A woman walks past police officers as Angola’s election commission says ruling MPLA party leads with 52% majority, after the general election close in Luanda, Angola August 25, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Angola’s main opposition party, the ‘União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola’ (UNITA) have announced they filed a case with the constitutional court to repeal last week’s election results. 

The Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) has ruled for almost five decades, with this recent election victory handing a second term to President João Lourenço.

According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) of Angola, just over 51.07% of voters had supported the MPLA, whilst UNITA took 44.05%, its best result to date, signalling growing dissatisfaction in the country.

UNITA strongly opposes the election results, citing dissimilarities between the official count and the party’s tally.

In a statement on Friday, party leader Adalberto Costa Junior said, “I reaffirm that MPLA did not win the elections. [The results] don’t reflect the electoral truth. People have voted for change.”

The party has shown respect for legal proceedings, formally rejecting the results two days after the vote on 26 August, as they attempt to form a calm and collected opposition. However, the CNE maintains that it has conducted the election process lawfully and transparently.

In a tweet on Friday, Costa Junior stated that UNITA won the elections, writing, “We expect the CNE to compare the minutes it has with those it has given to opposition parties. Angolans UNITA won the elections! We will defend the sovereignty of the people and their vote.”

Post-election crackdown

Many activists and NGOs have publicly denounced growing reports of detentions and kidnappings in the aftermath of the elections, including local organisation OMUNGA.

In a letter sent to the Attorney General of the Republic of Angola, the NGO asked the Public Ministry to investigate and institute criminal proceedings against the people involved “in the detention of young activists”.

“At the same time, the Angolan State must be jointly and civilly liable for the damage caused by national police officers”, added the organisation.

In a manifesto for human rights released just before the elections, OMUNGA implored both parties to “inform the electorate about what they intend to do, and how to respond to the following human rights concerns following the elections:

  • (a) the humanitarian situation in the region
  • (b) unlawful killings
  • (c) arbitrary arrests and detentions
  • (d) freedom of expression and assembly
  • (f) economic and cultural rights, with a focus on the right to food, water, and health.”

Florindo Chivucute, Executive Director of advocacy-based human rights organisation Friends of Angola, says they are currently collecting vast amounts of reports of unlawful detentions and even the torture of young people closely linked with the recent elections. He said, “It started right after the elections. There was a case where youth activists were detained, some of them weren’t even activists were just there passing by and they were detained as well.”

He added, “It’s not just that they are being detained because they are following rallies. The police are going to their houses and detaining them. You need a permit to detain people in Angola. What is happening is that the police go to your home with no explanation, no papers from the court, and put you in jail.”

Most disputed

Despite being naturally blessed with natural resources, oil, and diamonds, 44% of the population still live below the poverty line. Many were hoping to see tangible change after Lourenço put an end to the 38-year regime of 38 Eduardo Dos Santos.

Despite his efforts and promises, Angolans are still frustrated by the government and were looking to this year’s elections for some real change. This poll has been described as the country’s most disputed one in its independent history.

The ruling MPLA has been in power since 1975 following the end of Portuguese rule and the bloody civil war for independence. If the results from this year’s elections remain, the party would have won with the smallest margin in Angola’s electoral history.

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