Civic organizations in the Southern African region have voiced concern over their detention and subsequent deportation upon arrival at the Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport of Luanda, Angola without any explanation on Thursday 11 August 2011 and the cancellation of their accommodation and planned meetings. According to a joint statement by Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, SADC council of NGOs and Southern African Trade Union Coordination Countries and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, 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.
The CSO leaders were in Angola to participate in the 7th 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. “The Regional Apex Organisations views 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, “reads the statement. The grouping of civic groups say Angola is breaching SADC principles and laid down rules by its actions. “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 participate freely in issues that affect them.” The action against civic society groups comes a few days before the Zimbabwean crisis takes center stage at the SADC summit in Luanda.
There will also be dialogue on other regional issues to do with conflict in member states. The civic society believes this incident that has taken shape ahead of the summit is a move to frustrate it from taking part in regional democratic and human rights related issues. “Our detention, 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 astonishing callousness of this act was that we were denied entry to Angola despite having official correspondence from the office of a Director General of The Technical Unit of Humanitarian Aid Co-ordination (UTCAH), stating we should receive visas on arrival,” reads on the statement. The civic grouping also believes that Angola does not deserve its current role in the SADC community because it is failing to deal with its own internal party politics and restoration of the rule of law. “We strongly believe that Angola does not deserve to chair SADC until they have resolved their internal democratic deficits, lack of transparency and continued repression of civil society voices. As civil society we pledge to relentlessly campaign against Angolans government authoritarian and repressive practice. We call the heads of state and government attending the forthcoming SADC summit to suspend the impending chairperson-ship of SADC by Angola until full compliance with the provision of SADC Treaty and other protocols.”
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