Saturday, January 09, 2010

Angola: Attack on Togo's national football team does not justify illegal arrests or crackdowns on media

Human Appeal International (HAI) - On January 8, 2010, an ambush claimed by Angolan separatist rebels against Togo's national football team killed one person and injured at least nine others. The attack occurred as the team traveled to Angola's troubled Cabinda region to compete in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.

"The apparent rebel attack against a convoy of international athletes is shocking," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Angolan authorities are entitled to step up security in response to this attack. But this does not justify illegal arrests or crackdowns on the media, as it has done in Cabinda in the past."

Ahead of the tournament the Angolan government arrested two journalists, apparently for reporting on the security situation in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Human Rights Watch has documented a disturbing pattern of human rights violations by the Angolan armed forces and state intelligence officials in Cabinda.

A 2006 peace agreement between the government of Angola and a faction of the separatist guerrilla movement Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) sought to bring a formal end to the armed conflict in Cabinda, which has endured since Angola's independence in 1975. The Angolan government claims that the war in Cabinda is over. However, sporadic attacks on government forces and expatriate workers have continued, and a faction of the rebel group threatened to increase activities ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations.

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