Angola jails rights activist for three years


A human rights campaigner has been sentenced to three years in jail by an Angolan court that convicted him of committing crimes against the state, in what his lawyer says is part of a crackdown on activists.

A judge found Angolan rights activist Andre Zeferino Puati guilty last week after authorities found documents in his possession aimed at inciting people to protest against the government, his lawyer said.

Puati, along with several prominent figures in the oil producing province of Cabinda, were arrested shortly after separatist group FLEC killed two members of the Togo national soccer team in January while travelling by bus to the African Nations Cup in Angola.

A handful of human rights activists, including a priest, an economist, a lawyer and a former police officer, are expected to go on trial on June 23, said the lawyer and human rights activist Martinho Nombo, a former vice-governor of Cabinda.
“This trial was a sham designed to do away with Cabindans that have spoken out against human rights abuses in the enclave,” Nombo said.
“Puati had a book on Cabinda and several documents dating back to 2008 and 2009 that had nothing to do with the Togo attack. They are using the attack to crack down on human rights activists.”

Cabinda Governor Mawete Joao Baptista declined to comment on Puati’s trial.

Human Rights Watch, which accuses authorities in Cabinda of repeatedly violating human rights, has called for an end to the trials which are fuelling tension in the enclave.

Thousands of Cabindans were expected to march on the streets last month to protest against the arrests but it was called off at the last minute after heavily armed police increased their presence on the streets.

Roughly the size of Puerto Rico and separated form the rest of Angola by a strip of land belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cabinda accounts for most of Angola’s 2 million barrels of oil per day.

FLEC, or the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, have been locked in three decades of mostly low-level insurgency against the government, which grabbed world headlines with the attack on the Togo soccer team.

Both FLEC and ordinary Cabindans claim to see little of the money that comes from their land.