Last Updated 21 August 2019

Angola was a Portuguese colony before 1975, gaining independence only after a protracted liberation war, which was followed by a bloody civil war. The socialist-inspired national flag features a gear, a star, and a machete, the latter representing both agricultural production and armed struggle. Long time President Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepped down in 2017 to be replaced by fellow MPLA member Joao Lourenco.

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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. The constitution also provides for freedom of conscience, religion, and worship, and provides the right to be a conscientious objector.

The constitution defines the country as a secular state, separating religion and state. The state recognizes and respects different religious groups, which are free to organize and carry out their activities if they abide by the constitution and laws.

The Government requires religious groups to petition for legal status with the Ministries of Justice and Culture. Legal status gives religious groups the right to act as juridical persons in the court system, secures their standing as officially registered religious groups, and allows them to construct schools and churches. Groups must provide general background information and have at least 100,000 adult adherents to qualify for registration.

Family, community and society

According to the 2014 national census, approximately 41 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and 38 percent are Protestant. Around 12 percent of individuals stated as not being affiliated with any religion.

Religious organizations are required to apply for legal recognition to gain the right to construct schools and places of worship. In the largely Catholic country all 83 currently “legalised” religious groups are Christian. The Muslim minority of around 90,000 is somewhat below the threshold of 100,000 members present in 12 of the 18 provinces to apply for legal status. This has created some tensions and there are disputed reports in late 2013 of the state cracking down on unlicensed mosques.

Catholic influence on state and society

In 2007, Amnesty International released a report revealing the scale and extent of forced evictions in Angola, expressing particular concern at forced evictions carried out by Angolan authorities, apparently at the request of the Catholic Church in Angola. The organization said that nearly all of the forced evictions were accompanied by excessive use of force, which sometimes involved police beatings of children and women.

During and after the August 2011 presidential elections there were complaints that the ruling MPLA party gave preferential treatment, including government funding, to the Catholic Church in return for Church support of the MPLA.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceful assembly. However, since the constitution was ratified in 2010, Angolan authorities have regularly restricted citizens’ right to free expression. Pro-democracy demonstrators have been beaten by police and their rallies violently disrupted. Several journalists have also been beaten in an attempt to prevent media coverage of anti-government demonstrations.

In 2015, media coverage of the massacre of members of the Light of the World Church was restricted by the MPLA government, with police reports stating that 13 armed gunmen were killed yet opposition sources claim that the number is closer to 1000 worshippers.

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