Land Rush End in Summary Trials

A rumour that the municipal administration of Cacuaco, Luanda, was to distribute land in the farming area known as Kilometre 30, resulted in almost 100 detentions and summary convictions by the Cacuaco municipal court on Monday, August 13.

Maka Angola has confirmed that more than 40 people, 22 of them women, were sentenced individually to a suspended prison sentence of three months, converted to a 49,000 kwanza fine (US $490).

The news that plots of land were to be allocated prompted multitudes of people to the area. But for no apparent reason, members of the National Police at the scene started arresting people at random.

Roque Augusto, one of those present, explained that his family went to the site and claimed a plot in the zone that was supposedly being distributed. According to him, his family didn’t even occupy the plot. “Last Saturday, a large team from the National Police appeared in the area, summoned the people to communicate an important message, and suddenly started to select people in an arbitrary way without saying anything, and began to arrest them,” Roque Augusto said. Two of his brothers, Cândido and Carlos Joaquim, were among those singled out and detained.

Many of the detainees spent the weekend in the cells of the Luanda Provincial Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DPIC), part of the Luanda Provincial Command of the National Police, while others were taken to the Cacuaco Municipal Command. On Monday morning, all the detainees were taken to the Cacuaco Municipal Court for summary trial.

More than 300 people, including family members, friends and curious individuals gathered outside he court to follow the case, while the National Police deployed about 70 officers and 12 vehicles in the area throughout the day.

Fernanda Jacinto wept at the door of the court building, carrying a baby, Anastácia Paulino. The child’s mother, Fernanda’s sister Anabela Faustino, had been detained. Fernanda said that since Saturday, “the police permitted the mother to breastfeed her child only once and then gave the baby back. I don’t know what else to do – the baby is crying a lot. Please help me. How can they separate a baby from its mother?”

Anabela Faustino was imprisoned at the Cacuaco police command.

“My sister lives in a rented house, and when she heard they were distributing plots, she left her child with me on Saturday and ran off to see if she could get a plot. She arrived there, and without her doing anything or seeing any plot, they arrested her,” Fernanda Jacinto said.

Rosa Francisco Rafael, also waiting outside the court, voiced her anger at the detention of her daughter Maria Francisco Rafael, 26. “She was going to the market, which is in the same area where the problem was taking place. She was going shopping and they arrested the girl in the road without her doing anything.”

“The police told my daughter to get into the car and when she asked why, they just told her ‘you will explain that at the police station’. They arrested my daughter for no reason.”

Augusta de Jesus wept over the imprisonment of her husband, João António Manuel. “My husband was going along the road, and had nothing to do with this matter. They arrested him. They still haven’t allowed the family to speak to him,” she said.

Like other wives and family members, Augusta de Jesus took a food parcel to feed her husband. She said that “all the food is still here outside in the street, the court and the police did not allow the captives to receive food, and also gave them nothing to eat.”

According to Madalena Pedro, “my sister, Luiza Pedro, was convicted. The court said that we had to have money in our hands to pay the fine so she could be released. We didn’t have the money in time, and they took her to prison.”

Madalena Pedro said her sister was cutting grass when she was detained. “[The police] detained even 16-year-old children. There are many babies here and the police here in Cacuaco only allow the babies to go inside to be breastfed, then they must be given back to the families. How is this possible?” she asked.

The families complained that besides the restrictions placed on visits, the accused had no right to contact lawyers. The Angolan Constitution enshrines “the right to information and legal consultation, to legal aid, and to be accompanied by a lawyer in the presence of any authority,” (article 29,2). The Constitution also guarantees access to legal aid for the poorest people.

In a process lacking in transparency, some family members with financial means paid money to court officials and police officers to release their loved ones, who were then taken out of the courtroom. They were told to go home immediately without contacting the families of the other detainees or anyone else.

It was already past 8 pm when those sentenced were taken to prison under heavy police guard. The judicial and police authorities did not inform the families, who had been barred from entering the court and who were waiting outside in the street, where the convicts were being taken to.

Some families decided to keep an all-night vigil outside the court. The summary judgements continue today, Tuesday. It was not possible to obtain any comment on the events from the National Police or from the court.