JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Marking Angola's 40 years of independence on Wednesday, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos reminded citizens of the country's violent history.
"It was not easy, we have not received independence on a silver platter," dos Santos said in a speech printed in local media and broadcast on radio and television.
After a 27-year civil war that involved "several generations," it was up to Angola's youth to rebuild the country, dos Santos said.
After the war ended in 2002, oil-rich Angola enjoyed an economic boom. The country tried to position itself as the Dubai of Africa as the ruling party consolidated power, according to Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, author of "Magnificent and Miserable: Angola since the Civil War."
But critics say Angola has little to celebrate as dos Santos, in power for 36 years, this year intensified a crackdown on human rights.
An independent Angolan news site, Rede Angola, questioned dos Santos' optimism for the youth in the wake of the arrest of young political activists.
In June, 15 youth activists were arrested after they met to discuss political issues, rights group Amnesty International said. The activists were charged with preparing a "rebellion and a coup attempt," according to Amnesty. Last month, 18 people protesting in solidarity with the 15, were arrested and fined, reported Rede Angola.
In a separate incident, another activist was arrested, tried and sentenced to six years in prison after he organized a protest, the group said in a statement.
Amnesty International has also accused the Angolan government of extrajudicial killings and the arbitrary arrest of critics.
The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group has criticized the United States government's perceived silence on human rights in Angola, accusing Washington of fostering "an increasingly close relationship with the Dos Santos regime," said Jeffrey Smith, the organization's Africa director.