Angolan authorities have arrested two human rights activists who were planning an anti-government protest, in the latest sign of repression in Africa’s second largest oil exporter, rights groups said on Wednesday.
Jose Marcos Mavungo was arrested on March 14, the day he was coordinating a demonstration in the volatile oil-producing northern enclave of Cabinda. He was charged with sedition or planning attacks against the state.
Human rights lawyer Arao Bula Tempo was also arrested on unknown charges prior to the planned demonstration, which then didn’t go ahead. The police banned the proposed demonstration but have not confirmed the arrests, according to local media.
“These arbitrary detentions are the latest disturbing example of growing repression of dissenting voices, peaceful protest and freedom of expression,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southern Africa.
The governor of Cabinda, Aldina da Lomba Catembo banned Mavungo’s planned protest for “representing lack of honour and consideration owed to people and government institutions”, a joint statement by rights groups said.
Cabinda has suffered sporadic unrest during a four-decades-long battle for independence from Angola by rebels from The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda.
Oil output from wells off the coast of Cabinda, an enclave sandwiched between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, represents more than half of the around 1.8 million barrels per day produced by Angola.
Activists say President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ government has often used violence to chill dissent, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.
The Angolan government denies these allegations.