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Angola lies on the southern Atlantic coast of Africa and the majority of the country is divided from the exclave of Cabinda by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country has been embroiled in conflict for most of its post-independence history, a history largely overseen by the President José Eduardo dos Santos, who remains in power. High rates of poverty, child mortality, malnutrition and poor health and education provision are among the most basic challenges to human rights in the country.
Angola is located in south-central Africa, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and Namibia to the south. The exclave of Cabinda lies to the North of the main body of the State and is separated from it by a thin strip of land belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country's capital is Luanda.
Population and Language
Angola's population is estimated to fall just short of 19 million, a figure that has risen significantly since 1980, when the population was under eight million. Figures from the UNDP indicate that the national population has been increasing at around 2.7 per cent annually since 2005, and is expected to reach 24 million by 2020.
This population is made up of a number of ethnic groups, of which Ovimbundu (37 per cent) and Mbundu (25 per cent) together make a majority. Smaller groups include Bakongo (13 per cent), those of mixed African and European descent (one per cent), with the remaining 22 per cent made up of an amalgam of other minority ethnicities.
The official language of Angola is Portuguese, arising from the colonial history of the country, but a number of indigenous languages are also spoken by Angolans. The most common of these languages are Umbundu, Kimbundu and Kikongo.
History and Politics
Since Angola achieved independence from Portugal in 1975, much of its history has been marked by intense civil war. Within months of declaring independence, the three main political groups (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola and União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola) became embroiled in a conflict that would last for more than two decades. In no small part as a result of the country's wealth of natural resources, Angola was the focus of greater international interest than many other African States after it declared its independence. The Cold War served to intensify national conflict, with the United States, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa providing support for the FNLA and UNITA, while the Soviet Union and Cuba supported the MPLA. The collapse of the Soviet bloc led to a short ceasefire in 1991, and the MPLA were successful in elections in 1992, but UNITA refused to accept the outcome, and the country entered a further decade of civil war. During the war the country was effectively split between the urban areas, controlled by the MPLA, and the countryside, where UNITA could operate with impunity. A ceasefire was finally reached in 2002 following the death of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA.
Today, Angola's national political structure is dominated by a powerful president, who is both Chief of State, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The office is responsible for appointing members of the government, Supreme Court Judges and members of the High Council of the Judicial bench. The legislative wing of the State is largely constituted by the National Assembly, a unicameral legislature made up of 223 members elected by proportional vote. The current president is José Eduardo dos Santos, who has held the office since 1979, following the death of his predecessor. He won the first multi-party elections for the presidency in 1992. Constitutional reforms in 2010 put an end to presidential elections, so that in the future the president and vice president will be selected by the party that gains the most votes. Although Angola has a multi-party political system, the political environment is dominated by the MPLA, who gained 81 per cent of the votes in the elections of 2008. Of the minority parties, UNITA is the largest, managing to secure 10 per cent in the same year.
Economically, Angola is profiting from a period of substantial growth, and experienced the highest rate in the world between 2001 and 2010, with an annual average GDP growth of 11.1 per cent. While the world economic crisis has slowed this rate of growth, World Bank figures projected an annual GDP growth rate of five-six per cent for 2010. The country's main exports are diamonds and oil, with the oil sector accounting for more than 85 per cent of GDP, resulting in the State becoming a member of OPEC in 2006. Despite national economic successes, the State faces a number of development problems, including diversifying the economy to ameliorate the economy's reliance on oil, and dealing with the corruption that limits the ability for the new-found wealth to improve the lives of the general population.
Media and Civil Society
Reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have highlighted civil society involvement in national children's rights programmes, indeed 18 members of the National Council for Children, which coordinates child policies, strategies and action plans, are drawn from civil society. However criticism has focused on the low level of involvement possible for non-member NGOs, and the limited transparency in the selection of those groups that are involved.
Furthermore, a group of international civil society organisations wrote an open letter to Angola's Minister of External Relations in August 2011 to draw attention to violations against human rights defenders in the country, including intimidation and death threats received by young people involved in public demonstrations. More here
Angola ranks 104 out of 178 in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index 2010, with one being the most free.
Human Rights and Children's rights
In terms of children's rights in Angola, infant and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world, at 130/1000 and 220/1000 respectively. Levels of poverty and extreme poverty are also very high, with an estimated 37 per cent of the population living under the poverty line. International monitoring bodies have also criticised the widespread problem of accusations of witchcraft against children.
- ↑ UN DESA (2009d). "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision". New York: Department for Economic and Social Affairs
- ↑ Country Study of Angola carried out by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress.
- ↑ Hauser Global Law School Program, Globalex, by Paula Rainha Angola's Recent History
- ↑ Xinhuanet.com, "Angolan ruling party gains about 82% of votes in legislative race", 17 September 2008
- ↑ The Economist. 2008 edition. U.S. Edition. Article on Angola, "Marches toward riches and democracy?", 30 August 2008, p. 46
- ↑ World Bank: Country Brief: Angola
- ↑ World Health Organisation, Global Health Observatory Data Repository, Life Tables
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Angola Homepage
- World Bank: Country Brief: Angola
- The Economist. 2008 edition. U.S. Edition. Article on Angola, "Marches toward riches and democracy?", 30 August 2008, p. 46
- Xinhuanet.com, "Angolan ruling party gains about 82% of votes in legislative race", 17 September 2008
- Hauser Global Law School Program, Globalex, by Paula Rainha Angola's Recent History
- Country Study of Angola carried out by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress
- UN DESA (2009d). "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision". New York: Department for Economic and Social Affair
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Country profiles
- UNDP Country Profile: Angola
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, October 2010