Freedom in the World 2014 - Angola


The long-ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) tightened its grip on power after winning the 2012 elections. The mostly urban-based antigovernment protests that began in 2011 expanded in 2013. Demonstrators faced violent dispersal and intimidation—hundreds were arrested, and several were killed. In late November 2013, a group of opposition parties led by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) urged the government to end the political violence.

Meanwhile, the government continued to subject the independent media to legal and physical harassment, and corruption remained rampant. Poor management of public debt, combined with a devastating drought and a weak global economy, resulted in a moderate slowing of Angola’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2013.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 


Political Rights: 11 / 40 [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 4 / 12

In 2010, the MPLA-dominated parliament approved a new constitution that abolished direct presidential elections, stipulating instead that the leader of the largest party in the parliament would become the president. The 220-seat unicameral National Assembly, whose members serve four-year terms, has little power, and 90 percent of legislation originates from the executive branch. The constitution also mandates that, as of 2012, the president may serve a maximum of two five-year terms, and directly appoints the vice president, cabinet, and provincial governors. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been in power for 34 years, making him one of the longest-serving heads of state in Africa.

After a number of delays, parliamentary elections were held in August 2012. While the African Union deemed the elections “free, fair, transparent and credible,” the polls were deeply flawed. The MPLA’s 72 percent of the vote marked a notable decline from its 82 percent showing in 2008, though the party still maintained its overwhelming dominance in the National Assembly, garnering 175 of 220 seats. UNITA is the largest opposition party, holding 32 seats; the Broad Convergence for Angola’s Salvation-Electoral Coalition (CASA-CE) holds 8 seats, the Social Renewal Party (PRS) holds 3, and the National Front for Angolan Liberation (FNLA) holds 2. The MPLA-dominated National Assembly easily reelected dos Santos in September 2012.


B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 6 / 16

While five political parties are represented in the National Assembly, the ruling MPLA dominates Angola’s party system. In a rare show of coordination, the four opposition parties abandoned the National Assembly on November 28, protesting the MPLA’s “intransigence” and demanding a discussion on “violence and political persecution” in Angola. The opposition parties have since returned to the assembly, but declared they would be willing to leave it indefinitely. MPLA representatives have stated that the National Assembly functioned during Angola’s three-decade civil war without opposition and could do so again if the opposition parties chose to depart.

Adding to the nation’s political instability, dos Santos has been largely absent from the country since June 2013, reportedly due to serious health concerns. The president missed the Angolan Independence Day celebrations on November 11 and former South African president Nelson Mandela’s funeral on December 10.


C. Functioning of Government: 1 / 12

Corruption and patronage are endemic and bribery often underpins business activity. A 2011 International Monetary Fund report stated that $32 billion in government funds, believed to be linked to the national oil company Sonangol, could not be accounted for.  

Corruption in Angola has led to increased scrutiny on dos Santos, his family, and his allies, who are among the richest people in the world. In 2013, Forbes named Isabel dos Santos, the president’s oldest daughter, the wealthiest woman in Africa, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. Angola was ranked 153 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.


Civil Liberties: 18 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 7 / 16 (-1)

Despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, the state owns the only daily newspaper and national radio station, as well as the main television stations. These outlets, along with private media owned by senior officials and members of the dos Santos family, act as mouthpieces for MPLA; censorship and self-censorship are common.

Angolan authorities have consistently prevented independent journalists from reporting the news, denying them access to official information and events, preventing them from broadcasting, and threatening them with detention and prosecution. Security forces have also targeted journalists, particularly those covering antigovernment protests and reporting on corruption. In September 2013, for instance, the rapid intervention police arrested three journalists—Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs the anticorruption website Maka Angola; Alexandre Neto, the head of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in Angola; and Coque Mukuta, a correspondent for Voice of America—while they were interviewing antigovernment protesters. The journalists were threatened, beaten, and eventually released without charge.

Religious freedom is respected, though a high membership threshold to acquire legal status has kept many groups from registering. Since 1991, over 1,000 applications by religious groups have been denied. The government has yet to grant legal status to any Muslim groups, and there have been reports that it intervenes selectively to close Muslim schools, community centers and mosques. In November 2013, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Georges Chikoti denied accusations that Muslims were being persecuted.

Approximately 15 percent of Angolans are evangelical, according to the Angolan government. After accusing evangelical Churches of “false advertisement” and of “exploiting the Angolan people” the government decided in February 2013 to close the Universal Church and other Brazilian evangelical Churches such as the Pentecostal Evangelical Church New Jerusalem. On March 31, the government lifted the ban only for the Universal Church, which was then the only Evangelical Church recognized by the Angolan state.

There are no government restrictions on academic freedom though in interviews with members of Angola’s most prestigious universities, there are certain topics that professors avoid for fear of repercussions.


E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 4 / 12

The constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and association, though in recent years, police and security forces have violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations and intimidated and arrested protesters. In 2013, security forces banned or dispersed at least six demonstrations and made over 400 arrests. The protests—in Luanda and other cities and towns—sought to express concerns over social justice, corruption, forced evictions, police violence against street vendors, and the unexplained disappearance in May 2012 of two activists, Isaías Cassule and António Alves Kamulingue. Most of the detainees were quickly released, although the authorities reportedly abused many of the demonstrators while in custody. One protester, Emilio Catumbela—who was detained in May during a peaceful demonstration calling for information about Cassule and Kamulingue—was charged with attempted murder and kept in prison with little or no access to legal counsel, until his release on June 24 2013.

In November, internal government communications were leaked to Angolan media outlets revealing that Cassule and Kamulingue had been abducted, tortured, and killed by the State Intelligence and Security Services (SINSE). Dos Santos dismissed SINSE’s director following the revelations; UNITA called for a massive protest to demand the president’s resignation. On November 22, the Interior Ministry banned the protest a day before it was scheduled to begin, citing security concerns. The following day, police arrested 292 activists in several provincial towns and in Luanda, alleging that they were distributing subversive propaganda. UNITA’s offices were broken into and ransacked by the police, and Manuel de Carvalho, a CASA-CE legislator, was killed by dos Santos’s presidential guard. At Carvalho’s funeral, the persecution of opposition members continued, with security forces using tear gas against hundreds of mourners.

Meanwhile, the government allowed a pro-government demonstration on November 23 in Luanda, organized by “Friends of the Good and Peace,” a group with strong government ties.

Several hundred nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate in Angola, many of them advocating for transparency, human rights protections, and political reform. The most active organizations are often subject to government inspections, bogged down with excessive bureaucracy, and sometimes threatened with closure.

The constitution includes the right to strike and form unions, but the MPLA dominates the labor movement, and only a few weak independent unions exist.


F. Rule of Law: 4 / 16

The courts in general are hampered by a lack of training and infrastructure, a large backlog of cases, corruption, and extensive political influence, particularly from the executive. The president appoints Supreme Court judges to life terms without legislative input.

In mid-2013, 11 unsubstantiated charges were brought against journalist Marques by 7 Angolan generals, a civilian, two mining companies, and a private security company. He was held for several hours for questioning and released only amid significant international pressure.

In October 2013, an international arrest warrant was issued for General Bento dos Santos Kanganba, President dos Santos’ nephew; Brazilian police alleged that he had been running a human trafficking and money laundering operation in Austria, Brazil, Portugal, and South Africa, as well as Angola. The Angolan judiciary has yet to execute the warrant.

There is no efficient protection against unjustified imprisonment, pretrial detention, extortion or torture. Both government and private security personnel have committed murders and other abuses in connection with the diamond-mining industry in the Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul provinces of Angola.

According to Amnesty International, Angolan jails are overcrowded, do not provide basic sustenance, and are plagued by sexual abuse. They also contain a number of political prisoners, advocates of the Cabindan autonomy movement, and members of peaceful activist groups. One prisoner, 17-year-old Nito Alves, was arrested in September 2013, one week after helping to organize a protest, and placed in solitary confinement for weeks without access to medical care, lawyers, or family. Alves was freed in November, but still faces charges for violating a state security law for printing shirts calling for the resignation of dos Santos.

In mid-2013, on the occasion of its own 50th anniversary, the secessionist movement FLEC renewed its call for talks on independence for the oil-rich region of Cabinda. There was no public response from the Angolan government; FLEC supporters continue to be randomly arrested in Cabinda.

The law criminalizes same-sex sexual activity, although there were no reported cases of this law being enforced. Still there are reports in some communities of persecution of members of the LGBT community.


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 3 / 16

The problem of landmines remains serious. In the last five years alone, the Halo Trust found and destroyed an average 690 landmines a month. International funding for demining is declining, however, and the Angolan government has not stepped in. As a result, demining rates are decreasing, restricting Angolans’ freedom of movement, particularly in the rural areas. 

Securing entry and exit visits from Angola remains difficult and mired in corruption. Nevertheless, the inflows of migrants from neighboring countries, as well as from Brazil, China, and Portugal, have increased. In May 2013, the Director of the National Service of Migration and Foreigners, José Paulino da Cunha, declared that over 1 million illegal immigrants were living in Angola thanks to corrupt government officials, companies that hire illegal workers, and some religious sects. The director added that the government was spending US$1 million per month to expatriate illegal migrants and planned to invest more in border control.

The Angolan police have forcefully evicted an estimated 80,000 people from informal settlements in and around Luanda. In February 2013, 5,000 people were told to leave their homes in the Maiombe neighborhood in Cacuaco without adequate notice, resettlement provisions or compensation. Dozens of those evicted were arbitrarily arrested, charged with illegal land occupation, convicted, and given prison sentences or large fines after summary trials.

Extortion and unlawful violence during government roundups of street vendors in Luanda and its suburbs is frequent, led by armed police, tax office representatives, and agents without proper credentials.

Access to quality education is limited to Angola’s elite and the expat community. The rest of Angola’s population has access only to a barely functioning educational system thanks to underpaid and often absent and corrupt teachers and a severely damaged infrastructure.

Women enjoy legal protections, and occupy cabinet positions and multiple seats in the National Assembly. However, de facto discrimination and violence against women is on the rise, even after a new law on domestic violence took effect in 2011. Child labor is a major problem, and there are frequent reports of trafficking in women and children for prostitution or forced labor.

Angola’s GDP grew an average 11 percent between 2004 and 2013. Still, some 70 percent of the nation’s citizens live on less than $2 a day, and as much as 10 percent of the population is struggling for food as the result of a recent drought that has affected about 1.8 million people.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

2014 Scores


Not Free

Freedom Rating

(1 = best, 7 = worst)

Civil Liberties

(1 = best, 7 = worst)

Political Rights

(1 = best, 7 = worst)