Police Clamps Down War Veterans Protest
By Lázaro Pinduca,
On Friday morning, a powerful, combined unit composed of Rapid Response Police (PIR), regular police officers and members of the Intelligence and Security Services (SINSE), used violence to disperse a gathering of war veterans who were preparing to hold a protest march in the city of Lubango, Huíla province.
During the event, the police arrested 14 protestors and a journalist who was covering the attempted peaceful protest. All of the detainees were released after some 10 hours in custody at the Lubango Police Municipal Command.
The police and security forces, estimated at more than 150 officers in number, took up positions at the meeting point at around 5am. The forces initially advised the veterans, who began to converge on the location at around 6am, to leave the place of their own accord.
Just before 8am, when their numbers had swelled to over 250, the intrepid veterans, armed only with placards, and animated by chanting slogans, were set upon by PIR officers, who had received orders to attack them with truncheons.
The fiscal coordinator of the Independent Forum of Demobilized War Veterans of Angola (FIDEGA), Armando Segunda, who was trying to organize his companions, was one of the main targets of the attack.
“I’m handicapped, I lost my left leg in the war. Three PIR agents grabbed me as if I were a pig, they beat me everywhere with cudgels. My whole body is swollen”, Armando Segunda, the reserve captain told Maka Angola. This officer was a commander of the 1st Company of the 1st Battalion of the 35th Brigade, stationed in the municipality of Jamba, Huíla, where he injured by a land mine in 1989.
In turn, the reporter from Rádio Despertar and the Angolense newspaper, Sebastião Silva, told this site that he was arrested by plain clothes officers, who immediately confiscated his mobile phone, and twisted his arm. “In the police vehicle, the agents threatened us. They said ‘whoever opens their mouth will be shot’,” stated the journalist.
Domingos Manuel Mendes, 45 years old, another war veteran, corroborated the journalist’s story and further informed: “we were called dogs and bandits by the emergentes [slang for PIR agents]. They also said that they might shoot us and throw us in the Tundavala Gorge”. The former soldier, demobilized in 1992, served as chief operator of radio-location P-18, of the anti-aircraft “Quadrante”, stationed at the time in the municipality of Cahama, in the province of Cunene. He has spent the last 20 years applying for his pension. It has never been paid.
On June 9, FIDEGA formally informed the provincial government, as well as the police and military authorities, of its intention to hold a rally on August 3. According to the president of FIDEGA, Nunes Manuel, its associates would protest due to “non-compliance on the part of the General Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) to fulfill its promise to send a commission, in June, to evaluate the situation of 16,000 demobilized soldiers who have not been paid their pensions since 1992, for 20 years”.
Speaking to Maka Angola, Lieutenant-colonel Manuel Nunes (retired) deplored the fact that local authorities have failed to acknowledge his correspondence about the rally.
“It was just on Wednesday (August 1), that the provincial delegate from SINSE came to us to get information about the rally”, said the officer on reserve.
The president of FIDEGA also stated that “yesterday, Thursday, we spoke for almost an hour with general Apolo Yakuvela, commander of the Southern military region. The general informed us of the contact he had had with the chief of the General Staff of FAA regarding the situation. He said they were working on a solution and asked us to cancel the rally.”
In the course of the authorities’ dealings that same day, Thursday, the provincial commander of the National Police in Huíla telephoned lieutenant-colonel Manuel Nunes. “The commander told me that, at this complicated stage of the election campaign, holding a rally ‘was inconvenient’ and he asked me to cancel the event,” explained the leader of the demobilized soldiers.
The president of FIDEGA replied that he would go ahead with the decision to hold the rally “for fear of risking the wrath of my men, since the authorities never keep their promises.”
Meanwhile, Paiva Tomás, the provincial spokesman of the National Police, declined to comment on action taken by the police and the arrest of the war veterans.
Among those detained at the municipal command station of the National Police were the following war veterans: Adriano Pedro, Agostinho Pedro, Daniel Faria, Daniel Sabambi, Domingos Manuel, Domingos Vitorino, Inácio Caule, João António, João Figueiredo, José António Cuia, Lote Correia, Luís Guerra and Rafael Capingala.
After the rally had been broken up, police and security officers went looking for war veterans in the surrounding area and in some residential neighborhoods.
The threat of being shot reminded the detainees of the disappearance in Luanda, two months before, of Alves Kamulingue and Isaías Cassule, who had been involved in organizing a demonstration of ex-presidential guards, to be held on May 27. There is increased speculation as to what happened to them after they were kidnapped. Besides, the Tundavala Gorge, in addition to being a local tourist attraction, has hidden in its bowels the skeletons of various political purges.