Angola must ensure failings during last year’s parliamentary election are not repeated at a presidential vote expected in 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.
The watchdog accused Angola’s National Electoral Commission of ignoring the ruling MPLA party’s abuse of state media and resources.
The electoral body announced a commission of inquiry into the nation’s first post-war election, which had to be extended into a second day because of numerous logistical and procedural flaws. But it has so far failed to publish its conclusions.
”The government needs to reform the electoral commission to ensure credible and independent oversight of all future elections,” Georgette Gagnon, HRW’s Africa director, said.
”As part of that process, the promised inquiry into the 2008 election flaws should be rigorously carried out and its results published.”
MPLA spokesperson Norberto dos Santos dismissed the report. ”They can say whatever they want. We are not worried about this Human Rights Watch report,” he told Reuters.
The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has ruled the oil-rich country since independence from Portugal in 1975, won nearly 82% of the vote in the poll against a divided and under-funded opposition.
United States and European observers said that although there was hardly a level playing field and the vote was marred by delays at voting stations in Luanda, it represented a step in the right direction for a nation whose 27-year civil war ended in 2002.
Angola is expected to hold a presidential election in 2009. President JosÃ© Eduardo dos Santos, in power for 30 years, recently said the long-delayed poll will take place only after Parliament votes on a new Constitution.
”Uncertainty over whether presidential elections will take place in 2009 is not an excuse for letting the problems highlighted by last year’s elections go unremedied,” said Gagnon in a statement.
”The government needs to assure that all future elections meet regional and international standards.”
The new Constitution will decide whether a president is elected through Parliament or by popular vote and modernise the oil-rich nation’s laws. It is expected to be ready by June, according to the MPLA.
The president is currently elected by popular vote.
HRW said the government continued to interfere in the state-owned media, which is seen as a government mouthpiece, and has created a restrictive environment for the private media.
The state owns Angola’s only daily newspaper, Jornal de Angola, two television channels and the only nationwide radio broadcaster, RNA, although there have recently been a series of radio and private weekly newspaper launches in Luanda.
HRW also called for an end to what it said were arbitrary arrests of peaceful civilian dissidents that sympathise with an armed separatist insurgency, known as FLEC, that is fighting for control of the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda.
”The armed separatist insurgency in Cabinda is no justification to clamp down on peaceful civilian dissidents,” said Gagnon. – Reuters