Activision sued by family of Angolan rebel leader

Call of Duty publisher Activison is being sued by the family of former Angolan rebel chief Jonas Savimbi, over his portrayal in 2012s Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops II's depiction of Savimbi

Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s depiction of Savimbi

 

Three of Savimbi’s children claim Activision depicted their father as a “barbarian” during his appearance in the shooter and are seeking €1m in reparations, The Guardian reports.

“[Savimbi is portrayed as] a big halfwit who wants to kill everybody,” prosecution lawyer Carole Enfert argues. Enfert countered that, in reality, Savimbi had actually been a “political leader and strategist”.

Unfortunalty, people and the history surrounding them is never that black and white and Savimbi, like many involved in civil wars, is a controversial figure to say the least. Savimbi led a decades-long guerrilla insurgency effort against the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the communist backed authoritarian Angolan government. Savimbi was killed in battle against government forces in 2002. Although being labeled a ‘freedom fighter’ by then US president Ronald Reagan, the consequences of Savimbi’s actions led, in part, to the deaths of 500,000 people with several million forced to flee their homes.

 

 

The nuance of the conflict, the Soviet / US power struggle, and subsequently Savimbi, were lost when Activision used the civil war as a backdrop for Black Ops 2 level Pyrrhic Victory. Savimbi appears to the player waving a grenade launcher, encouraging his troops to kill as many opponents as possible.

Unsurprisingly a Activision Blizzard lawyer, Etienne Kowalski, has rejected the claim. Kowalski states that Savimbi’s representation in the game was as a “good guy” and that he is portrayed fairly, “for who he was … a character of Angolan history, a guerrilla chief who fought the MPLA”.

This isn’t the first time Activision has been threatened with legal action over its depictions of actual international figures in its Call of Duty franchise.  In 2014, imprisoned ex-Panama dictator Manuel Noriega attempted to sue the company for his depiction as “the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes.” The suit was rejected by a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, under the first amendment right to free expression.

 

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