The leaders of the Regional Apex civil society organizations from the Southern Africa Region, namely the Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA), Southern Africa Development Community – Council of Non Governmental Organizations (SADC-CNGO), Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) condemn in the strongest possible terms 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.
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 the7th 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 in this instance.
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.
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.
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.
We also condemn the detention of Doreen Frances Stabinsky and call on the Government of Angola to release her immediately or to make her whereabouts known to her colleagues.
We also condemn the immediate deportation of two Mozambican journalists who were travelling with civil society delegates; despite the fact that they had valid visas for entry into Angola and which we further view as a direct attack on access to information and muzzling of the media.
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 chairpersonship of SADC by Angola until full compliance with the provision of SADC Treaty and other protocols.
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