Political Violence in Benguela
By Nelson Sul D’Angola
Political intolerance forced seven families associated with UNITA to flee from Capupa commune on the night of Sunday, July 22. The families, totaling 31 people in all, arrived in the municipal town of Cubal, in Benguela province, around midday on Monday.
According to Paulo Kananga, a member of UNITA who had to abandon his home at short notice with his wife and three children, “the [ruling] MPLA secretary in Cambulo village, Deolindo Dumbo, came to my house armed with a spear and arrows, while Felipe César from the local MPLA committee came with a machete in his hand to chase us out of the village”.
“They came to the house with death threats, and told my family that the arrows were meant for us if we stayed in the area,” Kananga told Maka Angola.
The MPLA members also visited the other influential local UNITA members, once again carrying weapons and using the same intimidation strategy. These threats follow an incident on July 12 when MPLA members attacked their UNITA counterparts with machetes, sticks and other blunt objects. The UNITA members struck back just as violently. The attackers were trying to prevent a UNITA rally from being held. The provincial governor of Benguela, general Armando da Cruz Neto, had to intervene personally. The Rapid Intervention Police was also deployed, to ensure the event could go ahead on July 14, and to maintain public order.
According to witness statements taken in the area, the MPLA activists went on a manhunt as soon as the Rapid Intervention Police was gone, particularly in the village of Caipumba, where support for UNITA is stronger.
Silva Chimbinguili, a traditional leader in Mutira Wemba village, has in the last few days seen his banana grove, with more than 1,000 trees, destroyed, and cattle belonging to MPLA activists grazing on his land.
Still more worrying is the fact that 19 of the displaced are children, aged between five and 14 years old, who had to walk all night for more than 40 kilometres (24 miles).
UNITA’s municipal secretary in Cubal, Luciana Rafael, condemned the threats and said that “our adversary [the MPLA] is determined at any cost to stop UNITA from installing itself in Capupa. Since the incident on July 14 they have chosen vengeance, and the level of intolerance has been increasing.”
The commander of the National Police in Cubal municipality, superintendent José Leão, said in an exclusive interview with Maka Angola that the UNITA members were not telling the truth. He said the National Police had noted no incident that might threaten public order or result in acts of violence against the main opposition party.
“It is UNITA’s responsibility, at the very least, to inform the authorities and the police so we can check whether this information is true or not,” superintendent Leão said.
Leão also said the Defense and Security Committee met on Monday, July 23, and the discussions made no reference to the UNITA members’ allegations. Leão said he only learnt of the case when Maka Angola contacted him. He took the opportunity to call upon the UNITA leadership to inform the National Police about any occurrence that threaten citizens’ lives, regardless of their party political affiliation. Leão called on the people of the area to remain calm. “No citizen, whether an MPLA or a UNITA activist, shall be in danger any more in this municipality,” he said.