AFRICA/ANGOLA - “Respect rights of farmers” says Archbishop Zacarias Kamwenho of Lubango, who denounces illegal confiscation of land

Monday, 17 May 2004

Luanda (Fides Service)- The Catholic Archbishop of Lubango, Angola, Archbishop Zacarias Kamwenho, has denounced violation the human rights of small farmers and villagers in his diocese. The Archbishop made this statement in an interview with Radio Ecclesia a local Catholic broadcasting station, sponsored by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Archbishop Kamwenho says he has received numerous complaints from farmers and people in rural communities whose common village land has been confiscated. The Archbishop says that the large producers with the support of the government are squashing the smaller farmers and he voices the Church’s concern for thousands of impoverished families: “Land is a central matter for most of our people” - he told Radio Ecclesia - “land is a traditional right and a positive right, but both rights are denied”.
The Archbishop says the rural people are not informed either of their rights or the procedure for land registration.
According to the Catholic weekly Jornal Apostolate which quotes companies and government organisations, hundreds of farmers and rural people stand to lose their land when it is assigned to new large farmers fazendeiros with the support of the authorities.
A report from the office for co-ordination of humanitarian affairs in Angola OCHA, with regard to the period 19 April to 2 May 2004 said a private farm in the national park of Bikuar in the district of Matala was recently enlarged to 20,000 hectares after annexing 5,000 hectares. Recently in the regions of Gambos and Huila, there were clashes between farmers and large land owners who were taking land and reducing the traditional lands belonging to herdsmen. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 17/5/2004 righe 29 parole 326)