Angola has been ruled by the same party since independence, and authorities have systematically repressed political dissent. Corruption, due process violations, and abuses by security forces remain common. An initial easing of some restrictions on the press and civil society, following President João Lourenço’s election in 2017, has been backtracked and challenges persist.
- A January crackdown by Angolan security forces against protesters in Lunda Norte province left at least a dozen protesters dead and several more missing, though local human rights groups have suggested that the true number of those killed is significantly higher. Two senior officers implicated in the crackdown were later dismissed.
- Throughout the year, rights activists and members of the press frequently protested against the government’s repression of political dissent in the country. Several instances of arbitrary arrest and physical assault of journalists and protesters by police reportedly took place during these events; in some cases, activists and youth leaders were physically prevented from leaving their homes to take part in such demonstrations by security forces.
- In November, the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) used its parliamentary majority to pass amendments to the law on general elections. The opposition and civil society organizations criticized the legislation, which includes provisions that centralize vote counting, saying that the law undermines electoral transparency and failed to implement antifraud mechanisms.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||0.000 4.004|
The 2010 constitution abolished direct presidential elections. Instead, the head of the national list of the political party receiving the most votes in general elections becomes president, without any confirmation process by the elected legislature. The constitution permits the president to serve a maximum of two five-year terms, and to directly appoint the vice president, cabinet, and provincial governors. In December 2021, the ruling MPLA announced that President João Lourenço would again be the party’s presidential candidate in 2022. Lourenço was first elected to the presidency in 2017, succeeding former president José Eduardo dos Santos, who had been in power for 38 years.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||2.002 4.004|
Angola’s 220-seat, unicameral National Assembly, whose members are elected to five-year terms by proportional representation, has little power, and most legislation originates in the executive branch.
In the 2017 legislative polls, the MPLA won 61 percent of the vote and 150 seats, while the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) took 27 percent and 51 seats, and the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola–Electoral Coalition (CASA–CE) won 9 percent and 16 seats. Two smaller parties won the remainder. Though an African Union (AU) monitoring mission noted that polling preparations and processes were better organized than in past elections, the prevalence of biased progovernment media, deficiencies in voter registration processes, and the MPLA’s use of public resources in its campaign disadvantaged the opposition. There were also reports of postelection violence in some locations.
Alleging grave irregularities at the National Election Commission (CNE), including manipulation of the vote count, opposition leaders called the 2017 polls fraudulent and jointly disputed the results. The Constitutional Court dismissed their claim, citing a lack of evidence. Opposition figures elected to the National Assembly ultimately took their seats, prompting intense criticism from their political base.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||1.001 4.004|
The law states that the makeup of the CNE should reflect the disposition of power in the National Assembly, which gives an advantage to the MPLA. The political opposition, in its challenge of the 2017 election results, cited serious misconduct and a lack of transparency on the part of the CNE.
The opposition rejected the February 2020 nomination of the new CNE president, citing a lack of independence from the MPLA, past cases of corruption, and alleged fraud committed during the process of his appointment. He was later confirmed by the MPLA-led National Assembly; opposition protesters defied a ban on demonstrations in Luanda to oppose the confirmation, and were met with violence by police.
In 2021, President Lourenço unexpectedly initiated a constitutional review, proposing more than 40 constitutional amendments. Civil society groups and the opposition have criticized many of the proposed amendments, saying that the opposition and wider Angolan society have not been adequately consulted. However, the MPLA majority in the parliament is sufficiently large to amend the constitution without the support of any opposition parties, and the bill remained under consideration at year’s end.
In September, the parliament unanimously passed amendments to the voter registration law, including provisions allowing Angolan citizens living abroad to vote in the upcoming 2022 elections. The National Assembly also voted to amend the law on general elections. The bill, which includes provisions that would centralize vote counting, was rejected by the opposition, but was passed by the MPLA majority in September. The opposition considers the amendments to constitute “electoral fraud,” saying that its provisions reduce electoral transparency. President Lourenço sent the draft law back to parliament later that month, but subsequent changes to the bill were deemed insufficient by the opposition and civil society organizations. Lourenço signed the amendments into law in November after the National Assembly passed the bill a second time.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||1.001 4.004|
While there is a multiparty system in place, competition is limited. The process for creating new political parties is fraught with bureaucratic obstacles and attempts at cooptation, factors that severely hinder public confidence in new parties.
Citing irregularities in the process, in August 2020 the Constitutional Court rejected the legalization of a new opposition party, PRA-JA Servir Angola, led by Abel Chivukuvuku. The decision also placed bureaucratic limits on the ability of Chivukuvuku and the party’s other promoters to attempt to establish a new, different party in the coming years. Chivukuvuku appealed the court’s decision, but PRA-JA Servir Angola had still not been granted legal status as a party by the end of 2021.
In 2021, PRA-JA Servir Angola and opposition parties UNITA and the Democratic Block (BD) announced that they had formed a coalition, the United Patriotic Front (FPU), to contest the 2022 elections.
In October, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2019 election of Adalberto da Costa Jr. as UNITA party leader was illegal. UNITA reelected Costa as party leader in December with over 96 percent of the vote.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||1.001 4.004|
There is little space for the opposition to increase its parliamentary representation, much less gain power through elections. Angola has never experienced a transfer of power between rival parties. Nevertheless, opposition parties have been building public support in recent years, particularly in and around the capital, Luanda.
No municipal elections are held in the country for opposition parties to contest, though the national government has been working to change this since 2015. However, citing delays in voter registration, in September 2020 authorities announced the postponement of local elections set for later in the year. The elections were postponed again in 2021. Some analysts have attributed the delays to government reluctance to relinquish the power to appoint subnational officials.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||1.001 4.004|
MPLA-aligned economic oligarchies nurture a system of dependency and patronage that can subvert candidates’ and voters’ ability to freely express their political choices.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||2.002 4.004|
While societal pressures can discourage women from active political participation, women’s rights advocates have an increasingly vocal presence in political life.
Government and state institutions are controlled by the MPLA, which draws much of its support from the Kimbundu ethnic group, while the Ovimbundo and Kikongo ethnicities are predominant, respectively, in UNITA and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA).
Discussion of issues affecting LGBT+ people have historically been considered taboo, and such topics have been absent from political debate. This has changed somewhat with the parliament’s adoption of a new penal code that decriminalized same-sex relations in January 2019.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||1.001 4.004|
The country has been ruled by the MPLA since independence in 1975, and the president is expected to consult routinely with the party’s political bureau.
Executive powers are broad and varied, leaving the parliament to act largely as a rubber stamp in approving the president’s policies. Like his predecessor, President Lourenço frequently adopts legislation by presidential decree.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||1.001 4.004|
After decades of MPLA rule, corruption and patronage have become entrenched in nearly all segments of public and private life. President Lourenço has repeatedly stressed his willingness to fight endemic corruption since his 2017 election campaign, and a few high-profile dos Santos-era officials have been convicted of corruption, including, in 2020, José Filomeno dos Santos, the son of the former president. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction on appeal in November 2021. His sister, Isabel dos Santos—who has been accused of siphoning public funds from the state oil firm, Sonangol—was ordered to return $500 million in shares to Sonangol by an international arbitration court in July.
Other figures under judicial inquiry and facing seizure of assets include two close aides of the former president, Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa” and Leopoldino do Nascimento. Carlos São Vicente, the former head of Sonangol, the epicenter of corruption during the Santos era, has been detained on charges of corruption since late 2020. However, prosecution of high-profile individuals not directly connected to the family of former president dos Santos has seldom led to trial.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||0.000 4.004|
Government operations are generally opaque. In 2018, the government announced the formation of the National Oil, Gas, and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) to oversee the industry beginning in February 2019. However, its leadership has been sourced from Sonangol.
|Are there free and independent media?||1.001 4.004|
The Angolan state owns most media in the country, and state-owned media report favorably on the government and rarely carry critical coverage. Most ostensibly private outlets also act as mouthpieces of the regime. However, foreign news outlets, including Portuguese news agency Lusa, French news agency RFI, and Voice of America (VOA), are widely read.
In 2020, the government privatized a number of outlets they said were owned by members of the political and military elite but funded by the state. Journalists’ groups expressed concern about a lack of transparency regarding the privatizations, and afterward, about claims that reports critical of the government had been censored at several of those outlets.
Insult and defamation are both considered criminal offenses. The criminal code also includes “abuse of press freedom,” a charge that can be levied against those accused of engaging in incitement, hate speech, defense of fascist or racist ideologies, or “fake news.”
In September 2021, the Provincial Court of Luanda convicted the editor of an online news outlet on charges of “criminal defamation, injurious denunciation, and violating press freedom.” In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Angolan authorities to stop pursuing criminal defamation cases against members of the press.Several other journalists were targeted throughout the year with lawsuits brought by government officials accusing them of slander and defamation; many independent journalists have denounced such action as “persecution” by the authorities.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||2.002 4.004|
The constitution guarantees religious freedom, but the government imposes onerous criteria on religious groups for official recognition, which is required for the legal construction of houses of worship. Notably, many Pentecostal churches—which have had a profound social impact in Angola—remain unregistered.
There are no registered Muslim groups, though Muslim communities have been vocal in their demands for recognition and the right to worship freely.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||2.002 4.004|
Academics must maintain a façade of agreement with the MPLA’s preferred narratives and refrain from open criticism of the party, or risk losing their positions. Those who voice dissent are often monitored by security services.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||2.002 4.004|
Fear of retribution for expressing criticism of the government or controversial opinions in private conversations persists in Angola. Self-censorship is common, fueled by concerns that a perceived intent to organize against the government could result in reprisals. Known surveillance of civil society groups, journalists, and academics can leave people reluctant to speak out. The government actively monitors online activity.
The results of an Afrobarometer poll, released in August 2020, indicated that 32 percent of individuals surveyed considered themselves “not at all free” to express their political views, and another 16 percent said they felt “not completely free.” Together, this was greater than the percentage of individuals who said they considered themselves totally or partially free to express such views.
Opposition party youth organizations claim that repression of political dissent has increased in recent years, citing several instances of arbitrary arrests and intimidation of government critics by state security forces.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||1.001 4.004|
Constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly are poorly upheld. While the Lourenço administration initially showed more tolerance for public demonstrations than its predecessor, peaceful marches are still frequently met with violence and arrests by the security forces. Throughout 2020, police violently dispersed and made arrests at protest marches, at times resulting in several unlawful killings by security forces. Separatists in the oil-rich Cabinda region were also targeted by the government.
In January 2021, security forces launched a violent crackdown on a peaceful protest organized by the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement (MPPLT) in Angola’s Lunda Norte province. At least a dozen protesters were killed by police, though local human rights groups have suggested that the true number of those killed is significantly higher; several other activists reportedly “disappeared” following the incident. Videos circulated on social media allegedly show police forces using indiscriminate force against fleeing protesters and several who had been detained. Two senior officers implicated in the crackdown were later dismissed.
Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because of continued violent crackdowns on peaceful protesters by security forces using indiscriminate and lethal force.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||2.002 4.004|
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on human rights and governance are closely monitored. The MPLA traditionally made vocal attempts to discredit their work and sometimes threatened such groups with lawsuits and outright closure, prompting many to curtail their activities. However, the environment for NGOs has improved since 2018, with reduced interference and a greater willingness on the part of the government to engage in dialogue with civil society groups.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||2.002 4.004|
Certain employees who provide services considered essential—including prison guards and firefighters, but also workers in the oil sector—may not legally strike. Unions not associated with the MPLA have faced interference and harassment. However, the government has allowed more strikes to proceed without interference or repression in recent years.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||1.001 4.004|
The president appoints Supreme Court judges to life terms without legislative input. Corruption and political pressure from the MPLA contribute to the judiciary’s general inefficacy and undermine its independence.
A constitutional review, proposed by President Lourenço in March 2021 and initiated in August, contains provisions for amendments that would elevate the Supreme Court over the Constitutional Court, which critics say threatens to weaken the judicial system and jeopardize its independence. Manuel Aragão, the former chief of the Constitutional Court, strongly opposed these amendments, and resigned his position in August. Lourenço appointed then secretary of state Laurinda Cardoso, an MPLA official, to the role; opposition figures have expressed concern that her appointment has allowed the MPLA to exercise increased control over the courts.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||1.001 4.004|
Constitutional guarantees of due process are poorly upheld. Many defendants are unable to afford legal counsel, and the state largely fails to provide qualified legal aid to those who need it. Arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention remain problems.
Legal representatives for several leading political activists in Cabinda who were detained in 2020 claimed violations of judicial procedures by local authorities and courts. Shortly after the crackdown on MPPLT protesters in January 2021, MPPLT’s leader, José Zecamutchima, was arrested. Zecamutchima, who was accused of rebellion and conspiracy, remained in detention at year’s end; in September, his lawyer claimed that more than 400 people allegedly involved in the January protests also remained in police custody.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||1.001 4.004|
Security forces enjoy impunity for violent acts, including torture and extrajudicial killings committed against detainees, activists, and others. Angolan prisons are reported to be overcrowded, unhygienic, lacking in necessities, and plagued by sexual abuse. According to government statistics, violent crime, including robberies, assaults, and homicides, has increased in Luanda in recent years.
The low-level separatist insurgency in the isolated Cabinda region continues to pose a security threat. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) claims to have engaged in guerrilla activity against Angolan soldiers, but the government has not verified these claims.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||2.002 4.004|
Women face discrimination in the workplace that makes it difficult for them to rise to senior positions. There have been reports of abuse of women and children accused of practicing witchcraft.
Same-sex relations were banned in Angola until January 2019, when the parliament adopted a new criminal code that did not include a historical “vices against nature” statute. Lawmakers also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation the same month.
Seminomadic Khoi and San tribes in southern provinces have been particularly hard-hit by a prolonged drought, which has been largely ignored by the government. The crisis was further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Security forces allegedly harass and abuse immigrant communities, and the government has failed to adequately protect refugees and asylum seekers. UN representatives expressed concern about the forced expulsion of Congolese migrants in 2020, suggesting it violated international directives on the treatment of refugees.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||1.001 4.004|
Several organizations have been working to remove land mines that were placed during Angola’s 1975–2002 civil war. Land mines inhibit agriculture, construction, and freedom of movement, particularly in rural areas.
There have been reports by local NGOs that the authorities and private security groups that guard Lunda Norte Province’s diamond mines restrict the movements of local residents.
The process for securing entry and exit visas remains difficult and mired in corruption. Bribes are frequently required in order to obtain employment and residence.
Restrictions on movement and other activity enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were often violently enforced, with Amnesty International and local NGOs reporting at least 7 resulting deaths in 2020.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||1.001 4.004|
Predatory elites tend to either disrupt or coopt emerging new businesses. Authorities have at times expropriated land and demolished homes without providing compensation. Customary law practices can leave women with unequal inheritance rights.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||1.001 4.004|
Domestic violence is widespread in Angola, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. Child marriage remains common, particularly in rural areas.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||0.000 4.004|
Public oil revenues are not equitably distributed or used to benefit the entire population. Rural regions in particular have inadequate infrastructure and access to services, leading to inequities in economic opportunity.
Child labor is a major problem, and foreign workers are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in the construction and mining industries. The authorities have failed to effectively investigate human trafficking or prosecute offenders.
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Global Freedom Score30 100 not free
Internet Freedom Score62 100 partly free