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Angola human rights concerns

Christian Aid and partner organisations are demanding that countries with close bilateral ties to Angola – including the UK – take a more robust position on the continuing human rights violations in the country.

The government in Luanda ordered the closure of the UN Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the end of May, three months ahead of Angola’s first parliamentary elections since the end of the country’s 27-year civil war.

Christian Aid is concerned that the office closure signals growing government intolerance for criticism and human rights scrutiny in the run-up to elections.

‘Asking the UN’s human rights office to close is the latest example in a long list of worrying incidents where the Angolan government has sought to stifle dissent,’ says Christian Aid’s Angola programme manager, Rosario Advirta.

In 2007 the Angolan government accused several human rights groups, including Christian Aid partner organisations, of illegal activities, and threatened them with closure.

Christian Aid and other agencies have already publicly raised their human rights concerns several times, most recently with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, prior to his visit to Angola in May.

With a booming oil industry – including significant investment from UK companies – Angola has the second-fastest growing economy in the world*. It has just overtaken Nigeria as Africa’s largest oil producer**.

But despite soaring economic growth, most Angolans remain desperately poor, and a quarter of all Angolan children die before their fifth birthday.

‘Angola’s economic boom is mainly benefiting the elite,’ explains Advirta. ‘Civil society organisations have a vital role to play in building a fair and democratic society in Angola, and in making sure that the country’s wealth benefits all her citizens. These organisations must be allowed to pursue their legitimate activities unhindered, especially as elections approach.’

In a joint statement with partners ACC (the Association for building communities), DASEP-IECA, Fahamu, Omunga and other agencies, Christian Aid warns that ‘remaining silent when human rights are disrespected… will only result in future instability and crises.’

The signatories to the statement, which you can read in full here, are ACAT France, ACC, Coligação pela Reconciliação, Transparência e Cidadania, Christian Aid, DASEP-IECA, Fahamu, Frontline, Global Witness, Netherlands institute for Southern Africa, Omunga and SNV Angola.

* IMF World Economic Outlook April 2008
** Platts report, April 08