There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom; however, the government imposed restrictions that affected members of minority religious groups.
The high membership threshold for religious groups to acquire legal status restricted registration. The government continued to recognize 83 registered religious groups, but did not register any new groups. The government last registered a new group in 2004. More than 900 organizations have applied unsuccessfully for legal recognition since 1991. The government has not granted legal status to any Muslim groups. Over 2,000 organizations reportedly continued to operate without legal status. The government generally permitted these organizations to exist, function, and grow without legal recognition.
In April the government held a workshop to discuss concerns about the reported proliferation of nontraditional religious groups and beliefs (i.e., other than mainstream Christian groups traditionally present in the country). The workshop identified some religious groups known to accuse children of witchcraft or to accept payments for faith healing.
Muslim group leaders reported Muslims could not practice Islam freely because the government did not recognize Islam and selectively intervened to close mosques, schools, and community centers. Although government officials asserted the government protected religious groups without legal status and did not have a policy to close mosques or other Islamic facilities, there were several reports of local authorities closing mosques or preventing their construction.
In January local police in Dundo, Lunda Norte Province, reportedly twice prevented a Muslim group from building a mosque, although the group had a license to build one. Police allegedly destroyed the mosque’s foundation at one location, directing the group to build elsewhere. When construction began at the new site, however, police again reportedly demolished the work and told the group that it could not build a mosque at all.
In May in Kuito, Bie Province, the National Criminal Investigation Police (DNIC) reportedly chained the doors on a large residential/commercial building used as a mosque by local Muslims. The DNIC representative allegedly said he had orders to close the building and told the Muslim community it could not continue to pray there. Muslim leaders from Kuito and Luanda wrote repeated letters to DNIC authorities, but received no response. At year’s end there was no resolution.
Government agencies, religious groups, and civil society organizations continued campaigns against indigenous religious practices involving shamans, animal sacrifices, or “witchcraft.” The stated goal of these campaigns was to discourage abusive practices that included willful neglect or physical abuse, particularly of women, children, and the elderly. According to the National Institute for Religious Affairs (INAR), cases of abusive practices diminished significantly due to the campaigns and government directives.
In October local authorities closed 19 unregistered churches in Namibe Province. The government claimed the unlicensed churches were operating out of people’s homes, often as a means to make money.