Pro-Dos Santos Militias Attack Activists at Home

A group of about 15 people attached to Angolan pro-government militias, armed with pistols, machetes and iron rods, have attacked the group of young people who have been co-ordinating demonstrations against President José Eduardo dos Santos since March 2011. President Dos Santos’ 32 year rule is tied for the longest in Africa.

Shortly after 10pm on Tuesday night the attackers burst into the home of rap artist Casimiro Carbono in Luanda’s Nelito Soares neighbourhood, where ten youths had gathered.

With pistols in their hands, the attackers violently beat Gaspar Luamba, Américo Vaz, Mbanza Hamza, Tukayano Rosalino, Alexandre Dias dos Santos, Jang Nómada, Massilon Chindombe, Mabiala Kianda, and Jeremias Manuel Augusto “Explosivo Mental”. Their host, Casimiro Carbono, avoided the attacks as he had gone outside a few moments earlier to take a telephone call.

Afonso Mayanda, known as “Mbanza Hamza”, 26, said the attackers carried out the attacks in a quick and businesslike manner as soon as the door was opened. “They beat me with an iron rod on the head and all over my body, and pointed pistols at us so we wouldn’t resist the beating,” he said. Mbanza Hama needed 12 stitches in his head, and suffered fractures to his skull and right arm.

Gaspar Luamba was also severely beaten on the head with an iron rod, needing eight stitches, and his arms were broken. One of the pro-government thugs also struck Jang Nómada on the head with an iron bar, severely injuring him in addition to the beating he received to his entire body.

The rapper Jeremias Manuel Augusto “Explosivo Mental”, 25, tried to fight off the blows aimed at his head, and ended up with swollen arms, a broken finger on his right hand, and bruises all over his body. Massilon Chindombe, who tried to hide in the bedroom, said one of the attackers pointed a pistol at him when he was trying to close the door. “We said we were calling the police, and he laughed and replied ‘what police?’”. Chindombe said they took the wounded to the Américo Boavida Hospital after the attack. “Luamba and Mbanza Hamza had lost a lot of blood and were semi-conscious. At the hospital one of the nurses tried to apply stitches to Luamba without anaesthetic or attention to basic hygiene. We had to go to a private clinic,” he said.

Eyewitnesses said that when the militias were leaving the scene of the crime they fired three shots to disperse the neighbours who had begun to gather in the street, and drove away in Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles allegedly belonging to National Police officers. In several previous demonstrations that have been suppressed by the National Police, the group of attackers has carried out acts of violence under police protection. Some members of the group have been identified as police officers.

Since Monday, the demonstration organisers have had the use of a bi-weekly programme on the opposition station Rádio Despertar, where they have tried to promote freedom of expression and to talk about the protests. Carbono Casimiro said the activists who were attacked this week had gathered in order to “devise new strategies for our radio programme and we were also discussing other problems to do with internal organisation and projects”. Rádio Despertar has been broadcasting since 2006 in terms of the peace agreement that allowed the former rebel movement UNITA to transform its Voz do Galo Negro (Vorgan) radio station into a commercial broadcaster. It is permitted to broadcast only in Luanda on FM, and its distinctly anti-regime editorial line has served to increase its listenership.

This week’s attack was the second time that militias have invaded Carbono Casimiro’s home. The first time was on March 9 this year, when the assailants used iron bars to attack Casimiro and the activists Liberdade Sampaio, Catumbila Faz-Tudo “Caveira”, Nelito Ramalhete and António Roque dos Santos, who were planning a demonstration against Dos Santos the following day. On March 10, the attackers violently dispersed a group of about 30 protestors at the Cazenga Tank in Luanda. Among those seriously injured in the attack were the rapper Luaty Beirão “Ikonoklasta” and the secretary-general of the Bloco Democrático party, Filomeno Vieira Lopes, who had to undergo surgery in Germany. Two days later, the Angolan state television, TPA, gave plenty of airtime to a purported “Group of Angolan Citizens for Peace, Security and Democracy in the Republic of Angola”, which claimed responsibility for the attacks and promised further violence against those who demonstrated against the regime.

Censorship and the control of what is broadcast on TPA are watched scrupulously by Dos Santos’s executive, and the reading of a statement by an unknown group boasting of having committed a crime would in no circumstances have been allowed without the approval of the authorities. The pro-government extremists are drawing inspiration from Arab fundamentalist organisations to spread their image of terror.