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Angola silencing protests ahead of August vote: HRW

Men stand on a truck chanting slogans as thousands of Angolans take part in a demonstration (© 2009 AFP)

Human Rights Watch on Thursday criticised Angola for its “alarming” crackdown on anti-government protestors amid a growing public show of dissent in the run-up to next month’s elections.

The global rights watchdog said the government was targeting organisers of protests against its policies.

“The recent spate of serious abuses against protesters is an alarming sign that Angola’s government will not tolerate peaceful dissent,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Youths and war veterans, in a rare show of dissent in Africa’s second leading oil producing country, have over the past year taken to publicly display their disenchantment with the Luanda administration.

The youth movement has called for social reforms and the resignation of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. War veterans of the country’s civil and independence conflicts are demanding their overdue social benefits.

At least 28 veterans remain in detention without access to lawyers since last month’s protests over pension and bonus payouts, according to HRW.

Two organisers of war veterans’ and ex-presidential guards’ demonstrations have been missing since late May in what HRW described as a “possible enforced disappearance”.

Two other former fighters who were detained for two days were forced to go on state television to say that the opposition was behind the protests, to secure their freedom.

Public shows of dissent are rare in this tightly controlled country, ruled by dos Santos for 33 years. He is seeking another term in elections set for August 31, only the third poll in the country’s history.

“The government should stop trying to silence these protests and focus on improving the election environment,” said Lekfow.

Signature : LUANDA (AFP)

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