Angola “moving towards an authoritarian state”, Catholic Official Says, Decries Repression

Fr. Celestino Epalanga, executive secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Angola and São Tomé. Credit: Vatican Media

The democratic space in the Southern African nation of Angola is “gradually” shrinking, the Executive Secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST) has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Celestino Epalanga emphasized the need for Angola to provide the opportunity for all citizens to feel at home, with “the chance to realize their ideals, to make their dreams come true.”

“Angola is losing its physical space with each passing day and repressive methods are reappearing. What is supposed to be the democratic rule of law is gradually disappearing from the horizon,” Fr. Epalanga told ACI Africa during the February 16 interview.

The Angolan member of the Society of Jesus (SJ/Jesuits) said he finds it regrettable that “we are increasingly moving towards an authoritarian state.”

“In fact, the Angolan state is defined by many national and international organizations as an authoritarian state,” he further said, and continued, “No one has an interest in Angola returning to the time of the single party, the time when we were living in a dictatorship.”


Instead, the CCJP official said, “Angola should be considered a modern state and being a modern state it should make a great effort to respect fundamental freedoms.”

He identified hunger and poverty and the need to have the needs of the deprived masses known as other challenges bedeviling the Southern African nation.

“We've been talking about the need to give a voice to the voiceless, to the thousands of children dying of hunger, poverty, acute malnutrition, the drought in southern Angola and others rushing to garbage containers in order to feed themselves,” Fr. Epalanga lamented.

He added in reference to the highlighted challenges, “This is inhumane. We can't understand that in a country like ours, we can have so many people in the big cities dying of hunger.”

Alluding to his stance on speaking out against injustices despite threats on his life, the Jesuit Priest told ACI Africa that he strives to perform his duties as an official of the Justice and Peace Commission.

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“I don't think my life is in danger. Of course, I shouldn't play this down; it's something to take seriously, but I'm also aware of the risks I'm taking, because we know that Angola is losing its physical space with each passing day,” Fr. Epalanga said.

He continued, “In reacting to that message (threats on his life), I made it clear that I will continue to do my work as a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tomé.”

The CCJP official emphasized the role of the Catholic entity, saying, “Our mission is nothing other than the service of rebuilding justice and peace and social justice. We work for social justice, and we obviously denounce injustices.”

“We denounce all violations of the dignity of the human person, violations of fundamental rights and we also denounce the lack of transparency in governance, endemic corruption; in short, we cannot look on unmoved; we cannot be indifferent to all these realities,” he added.

Fr. Epalanga continued, “I, as Secretary General for Justice and Peace, cannot, of course, wash my hands like Pontius Pilate; I cannot simply run away from my responsibilities.”


“We try to give a voice to those who have no voice, whenever we are confronted with these blatant realities that alienate the rights and dignity of the human person,” the CCJP official told ACI Africa during the February 16 interview.

João Vissesse is an Angolan Journalist with a passion and rich experience in Catholic Church Communication and Media Apostolate.