Thursday, March 30, 2023

Angola detains, deports civil society activists

The leaders of the Regional Apex civil society organizations from the Southern Africa Region have condemned the detention and deportation from Angola by the country’s immigration authorities.┬á
The Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA), Southern Africa Development Community ÔÇô Council of Non Governmental Organizations (SADC-CNGO), Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) were detained and deported upon arrival at the Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport of Luanda, Angola, without any explanation on Thursday.
Those detained and subsequently deported include the Executive Director of SADC-CNGO, Abie Ditlhake, Executive Secretary of SATUCC, Austin Muneku, and Executive Director of FOCCISA, Malcolm Damon, among others. 
“Angolan immigration officials authorised our visit and put our travelling documents in order. To our surprise, immigration officials took our passports upon arrival. There was no communication with us until after two hours. Immigration officials returned and bundled us in a bus to board a plane back without explanation. We don’t know what the Angolan government is trying to hide. This does not augur well with the principles of the SADC Summit,” Muneku, the Executive Director of SATUCC told the Sunday Standard on Friday.
There was no immediate comment from the Botswana Council of Non-governmental Organisations. The Sunday Standard understands BOCONGO was represented by Mosweu Simane who could not be reached for comment by press time.
The CSO leaders were in Angola to participate in the7th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum, which is an event held by civil society organisations annually in the SADC country that will be hosting the SADC Heads of State Summit, and for which permission had been granted by the Angolan government in this instance.
“The Regional Apex Organisations view this incomprehensible act by the Angolan government as a blatant attempt to deny leaders of civil society an opportunity to interact with and add voice to SADC structures; and that this act also flies in the face of the tenets of the Protocol on the Facilitation of movement of persons to which many SADC member states are signatory,” read a media statement from the affected members of the civil society.
“We would like to draw the Angolan government’s attention to Articles 16A and 23 of the SADC Treaty, which commits SADC member states to engage fully peoples of the region and civil society in regional integration and development, and also that, we as Regional Apex Organisations are tirelessly striving for a Southern Africa Regional Community in which every human being lives a dignified, peaceful and secure life and participates freely in issues that affect them,” read a joint media statement issued on Friday by Malcolm Damon, Boichoko Ditlhake and Austin Muneku.
The delegation said their subsequent deportation, as well as that of other CSO delegates to the same forum shows a singular determination by the government of Angola to ensure that civil society will not have a voice in this year’s proceedings; and depicts a disregard for dialogue between government and civil society; which further emboldens our call to the 14 nation SADC Community to enforce its own commitments on human rights and democracy.
The deportees described the action of the Angolan government as an “astonishing callousness” act. They claim they were denied entry to Angola despite having official correspondence from the office of a Director that they would receive visas on arrival.
They also condemned the detention of Doreen Frances Stabinsky and called on the Government of Angola to release her immediately or to make her whereabouts known to her colleagues as well as the deportation of two unnamed Mozambican journalists who were travelling with civil society delegates.


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