Angola launches crackdown amid plunging oil prices

On a Saturday afternoon last month police raided a house in Luanda, the capital of Angola, and dragged 16 people out at gunpoint, covered their heads in hoods, and drove them away. They have been held in solitary confinement since June 20.

According to witnesses, the group had gathered for a weekly book club, where they were studying Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship to Democracy”, a “rulebook” for non-violent revolution.

Angolan Attorney General Joao Maria de Sousa stated two weeks ago that all 16 people were “caught red-handed while committing crimes against the security of the state”.

Most of those arrested are activists, part of a small but growing movement that has begun to question the monopoly on power held by Angola’s ruling party and former liberation movement, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

The country is led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who inherited the position 36 years ago, making him one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.

Over the past decade, Angola has been heralded by many as a shining example of “Africa on the rise” – one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, whose oil-boom wealth has even extended to bailing out its former colonial ruler, Portugal.

Yet Angola’s ruling elite has been responsible for rampant and well-documented corruption, converting national resources into private capital.