JOHANNESBURG - Angola has been cracking down on activists planning protests against its leader of 32 years to prevent a revolt similar to those that toppled the long-standing leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, a Human Rights Watch report said.
"Human Rights Watch also expressed concern at anonymous death threats against opposition politicians and human rights lawyers, arbitrary arrests of journalists and activists, and misuse of the state media for partisan political purposes," the rights group said in a statement obtained on Thursday.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Angola's President Eduardo Dos Santos has been in power since 1979 and despite the West African nation's vast oil wealth and billions of dollars spent rebuilding roads, the majority of the population still lives in poverty.
According to the New York-based organization, the government had warned that anyone participating in protests scheduled for last week faced punishment for inciting violence and attempting to return the country to civil war.
As a result, there were no reported large-scale opposition protests, but the government launched patriotic rallies at the weekend.
"Angola's ruling party should not scare people with renewed violence to deter them from freely expressing their views," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"Such disrespect of basic political freedoms does not bode well for Angola's upcoming general elections in 2012."
Nine years since the end of the civil war, data from international groups indicates that about half of the children under five in Angola suffer from malnutrition and half of the population is unemployed.
(Reporting by Peroshni Govender; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Elizabeth Fullerton)