African Studies Research Seminar - When Fear is a Policy: The Angolan Case

Conveners: Rebekah Lee and Miles Tendi

Speaker: Paula Cristina Roque (Universidade Catolica de Lisboa)


In 2022 we saw an Angolan government deeply afraid of change. The August 2022 elections, won by the opposition alliance Front for Patriotic Change (FPU) led by UNITA, but stolen by the ruling MPLA party exposed the extreme degrees of fear and securitisation. As the FPU waited for the ruling of its contestation of results by the Constitutional Court, T-55 tanks and kamaze cars with BM-21, BM-27, BM-41 artillery pieces were placed in the neighborhoods and around the main arteries of the capital Luanda. The Armed Forces were placed on full readiness for deployment and the anti-terrorist and paramilitarised Rapid Response Police (PIR) were deployed nationally.  It was an intimidation tactic to remind the population of war times. The regime was signaling that whoever took to the streets would be confronted with the full power of the security apparatus. UNITA was very explicitly warned of the consequences of a demonstration. Elimination lists began to circulate from FPU leaders and activists, intimidating stickers appeared on the gates and cars of people linked to the opposition. The politics of fear has become a policy for the government of João Lourenço, where the Russian saying – “Fear has big eyes” – becomes applicable. It refers to a process that when you are afraid, you see the factors that cause that fear everywhere, even when they do not exist. It also refers to the tendency to increase the importance of fear. In this talk Roque will describe the Securitisation of the Angolan regime, the strength and action of the intelligence services, the police and the praetorian Presidential guard in upholding the narrow interests of the Presidency. It will explore how fear was instrumentalised to implement widespread electoral fraud.


Paula Cristina Roque has spent 20 years working on conflict analysis and human security in Africa. She is Senior External Advisor and co-founder of the South Sudan Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies in Juba. She has held roles as advisor, senior analyst and senior researcher at various organisations, including the Crisis Management Initiative, the International Crisis Group, the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, and the South African Institute for International Affairs. Her publications include Governing in the Shadows: Angola’s Securitized State (Hurst, 2021) and Insurgent Nations: Rebel rule in Angola and South Sudan (Hurst, forthcoming).