Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the death of Alberto Chakusanga, the host of a programme on a radio station critical of the government. The first journalist to be murdered in Angola since 2001, he was found dead in the kitchen of his home in the Luanda district of Viana at dawn on 5 September.
Chakusanga was shot in the back with a gun equipped with a silencer. His sister-in-law, who was in the house, heard nothing. He hosted an Umbundu-language programme on Radio Despertar, a station that was created as a result of the peace accords between the ruling MPLA and the opposition UNITA in 2002, when UNITA ended its armed rebellion.
“While urging Angola’s politicians not to try to exploit or politicise this murder, we are struck by the fact that it has come at a time of tension between the MPLA and UNITA, which Radio Despertar tends to support,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The investigators should therefore not rule out any hypothesis, including the possibility that it was linked to the victim’s political allegiances or work as a journalist.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We call on the authorities to ensure that a thorough investigation sheds light on all the aspects of this killing, which has dealt an unexpected blow to freedom of expression in Angola.”
MPLA spokesman Rui Falcão assailed Chakusanga’s radio station at a news conference two days after his murder: “Affiliated to the party UNITA, Radio Despertar keeps on issuing calls for civilian disobedience. This is a serious situation that worries us and it is why I call on all the party’s members, supporters and friends not to react to any provocation, incitement or invitation contrary to law and order.”
Falcão added: “The stance taken by Radio Despertar and the appeals it has been issuing are based on the speeches which UNITA’s leaders, especially its president, Isaias Samakavu, have been making with increasing frequency in recent days.”
The communication ministry followed up with a communiqué threatening legal action against the station and urging various entities such as the National Council for Social Communication (CNCS), which regulates the media, to “assume their responsibilities as regards Radio Despertar.”
Three days before Chakusanga’s murder, the MPLA issued a warning to citizens who “conspire” with foreigners to denigrate President José Eduardo dos Santos and his government.
As a result of his radio programme, Chakusanga was popular among the Umbundu, Angola’s largest ethnic group and the main source of support for the former UNITA rebellion. Married and aged 31, he also taught at the Agostinho Neto state university’s faculty of arts.