Angola’s turbulent history includes the war of independence (1961–1974), civil war (1975–2002) and President Dos Santos’ authoritarian regime (1979–2017).
Decades of conflict and corruption mean that Angola’s infrastructure and basic services are extremely poor. Despite the country’s oil wealth, half the population live in poverty.
Most recently, there has been some fragile progress in opening civic space, under President Lourenço. Angolan human rights organizations laid much of the groundwork for this, having campaigned for years to force human rights issues onto the agenda.
The first Angolan human rights organisations only began emerging in the 1990s and 2000s. Prior to this, there were few organised groups outside the state, except for churches. From the start, civil society organisations have faced an extremely challenging and repressive operating environment. While they have progressively strengthened, they remain fragile.
Efforts to increase civil society space are hampered by the fact that power in Angola is heavily centralised. It is the only southern African nation that has not introduced a system of elected local government, and the presidency controls most political, military, judiciary and economic institutions.