, LUANDA, Apr 2 – Human Rights Watch on Monday urged Angolan authorities to end their violent crackdown on anti-government protests, which have mushroomed this year ahead of polls.
So far this year, five protests have been banned or violently dispersed, with at least 46 people arrested — including 11 who were slapped with 90-day jail terms, the group said.
Uniformed police, plainclothes armed police and other security agents appear to have coordinated efforts to break up the protests that have broken out in the capital Luanda, the central city of Benguela, and the northern oil-rich enclave of Cabinda, it said.
Most of the protests have called for President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to step down as the country gears up for elections later this year. After more than 32 years in power, he is Africa’s second longest serving leader.
“The increasing violence against protesters, observers, and opposition politicians signals a deteriorating rights environment ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections,” said Leslie Lefkow, the group’s deputy Africa director.
“The Angolan government should respect people’s fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and free speech rather than punishing critics and the political opposition,” Lefkow said in a statement.
“The repressive actions of the government do not bode well for peaceful parliamentary elections.”
The elections, expected around September, will be only the third since Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975.