'Call of Duty' Publisher Is Being Sued For Depicting a Historical Figure—Again
The family of Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi is seeking one million euro.
The family of Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan rebel fighter, says Call of Duty: Black Ops II portrays him negatively—specifically, as a "barbarian" and "a big halfwit who wants to kill everybody," according to the family's lawyer Carole Enfert. They're seeking one million euro in damages from the French arm of the video game publisher.
This echoes the 2014 lawsuit brought by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whose likeness was also used in Black Ops II. None other than former New York mayor and US presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani represented Activision in that case, which was summarily thrown out.
Unlike Noriega, who was extradited and imprisoned by three different countries for drug trafficking, money laundering, and human rights abuses; public opinion on Savimbi's legacy is largely divided. He was a guerilla leader who opposed Portuguese colonialist rule, and later fought against the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which assumed power after decolonization. According to Human Rights Watch, the MPLA "launched a considerable purge of mass organizations, notably the trade union federation and women's and youth organizations, of provincial organizations, and of the armed forces...several thousand people 'disappeared' in the purge and remain unaccounted for today."
But while Savimbi fought against a genocidal regime, he also rejected multiple peace agreements in favor of dragging his forces back into conflict, a process that ran Angola into the ground. A once-promising nation was reduced to poverty, and the Angolan landscape is still host to countless landmines.
Regardless of his reputation, the Guardian reports that France has very strict anti-defamation laws, even in cases where the allegedly defamed individual is dead—so his family may have a case. Savimbi was killed by the Angolan government in 2002.
You can see the entirety of Savimbi's appearance in the game if you jump to the 6:00 mark in the video above. For what it's worth, his depiction as someone who enjoys fighting is pretty consistent with basically every character who has ever been in a Call of Duty game.
For its part, an Activision lawyer told the Guardian that the game depicts Savimbi as "a good guy." Activision hasn't yet responded to Motherboard's request for comment.