December 2, 2015

‘President should go!’ Angola rapper tells court

A prominent Angolan rapper on trial for rebellion has told a court that Africa’s second longest-serving leader, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, should step down after 36 years in office.

Luaty Beirao, who along with 16 other young Angolan opposition activists went on trial two weeks ago for “rebellion and a coup attempt”, promptly said “Yes your honour” when asked in court Tuesday by Judge Domingos da Costa Mesquita:

“Did sir want the president of the republic to resign?”

Beirao, who with the others was arrested in June at a youth gathering and who risks up from three to 12 years in jail if found guilty, added:

“Besides concentrating all powers in himself, he is the first to violate the constitution he had sworn to respect. He interferes with the judiciary and the legislature.”

The rapper told the court that he was a pacifist who had been fighting against the dictatorship since 2004 through music, but specially since 2011.

The 17 were picked up during a meeting of a book-reading club where one of the books was about non-violent resistance to repressive regimes.

As the trial opened, the activists aged between 19 and 33 complained to the court about the poor and unsanitary prison conditions under which they are being held.

Fifteen of them are being held in prison while two are out on bail.

Rights groups say activists in Africa’s second-largest oil producer are being increasingly targeted by dos Santos’ government.

Amnesty International said the activists should have not been arrested in the first place and described their detention as a “travesty of justice”.

“They were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southern Africa.

“Their continued detention is a sign of how far Angolan authorities will go to suppress dissent,” she said.