Amnesty International on Tuesday condemned the “excessive use of force” against peaceful pro-independence protesters in Cabinda Province, Angola, saying it was yet another indication authorities were not prepared to tolerate dissent.
Dozens of protesters and their leaders were arrested by state security forces who were trying to break up a peaceful pro-independence march in Cabinda Province. The province accounts for most of the country’s oil output, the main driver of the economy.
Protesters, citing marginalization, had gathered in the city of Cabinda to march for a referendum for autonomy from Angola, but authorities responded by deploying security forces in high numbers to block the march.
They arrested dozens of protesters. Prominent human rights lawyer, Arão Bula Tempo, who has had his house surrounded by armed police officers in the lead up to Tuesday’s march was believed to have been put under surveillance for his human rights work and political views.
“The heavy deployment of security personnel armed with batons and guns – and the subsequent excessive use of force against peaceful protesters in order to prevent this planned protest – is yet another indication that authorities are not prepared to tolerate dissent,” said Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena.
“This use of unlawful and intimidating tactics to suppress a peaceful protest totally disregards the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“Those arrested must be immediately and unconditionally released. People must be allowed to freely exercise their human rights. Angola can only benefit from a plurality of voices.”