Angolan Police Detains 20 Demonstrators in Luanda

The Angolan National police arrested today some 20 youths, in Luanda, in a violent crackdown against anti-government protesters, who attempted to take to the streets to voice their discontent.

Since 2011, small youth groups have been trying to emulate the Arab Spring in Angola, and their attempts have been met by disproportionate force by the police, pro-government militias, and the state security apparatus.

The rapper Luaty Beirão and Adolfo Campos, one of the main figures in the Revolutionary Youth Movement, were arrested and taken to the Cazenga police station at about 9am. The two activists were among those who had gathered at the Santa Ana cemetery, the meeting point for the demonstration called by the movement, to protest against government repression.

The protest was intended to put pressure on José Eduardo dos Santos’s government to make a public statement about the kidnapping, almost a year ago, of two activists, Alves Kamulingue and Isaías Cassule.

After registering the detained men, the police transferred them to the Golf Precinct, “where we are at the moment,” Adolfo Campos told Maka Angola by phone. Another activist, Mauro Smith, was also being held at Golf.

Luaty Beirão told Maka Angola that “the police told us we were not under arrest, so they didn’t take away our phones. They also didn’t tell us why they have brought us here.”

Both detainees confirmed that some youths had been beaten with batons when they tried to stay at the meeting point where they were supposed to assemble to go to the protest. They said three more activists, Nito Alves and two whose names they did not know, had been detained and apparently taken to Viana.

“As they were arresting Nito Alves, one of the police said ‘this guy must be taken to the warehouse’,” Américo Vaz, another member of the movement, told Maka Angola.

António Manuel Capitão “Pimpão”, a demonstrator who avoided being seen by the police and was not detained, said he counted a total of 14 people being arrested at the scene.

“Some youths are being detained at the Somague [Portuguese construction company] building site, here next to the cemetery,” he said.

Mbanza Hamza, a veteran demonstrator who has been targeted by previous police violence, told how he was pushed around by the police at the scene, and taken to a vehicle to be transported to a police station.

“I showed a copy of the document that we sent a month ago to the Luanda Provincial Government, informing of our intention to hold the demonstration. I showed them our action was legal,” he said. The police officer then gave up on detaining Mbanza Hamza.

Other seven youth, included Gaspar Luamba, a veteran anti-government protester, were already being held inside the police van, labeled as a vehicle of the Criminal Investigation Provincial Bureau (Direcção Provincial de Investigação Criminal, DPIC).

A few minutes away, Mbanza Hamza and some other youth tried to defend a woman street vendor whose merchandise was being taken away by plainclothes agents. According to the youth, the plainclothes agents called to the scene members of the National Police. “The police beat us up and detained Pedro Teka, who was coming from the demonstration gathering point, and took him to the 6th Precinct, where he is detained at the moment.”

At the 6th Precinct, Pedro Teka met another demonstrator, Pedro Sebastião, who had been detained at the demonstration gathering point.

The first detentions, of six people, took place at 7am at the Viana municipality, in the outskirts of Luanda, in the spot where the demonstrators had agreed to meet before heading out to the city center and join the other demonstrators.

Some 50 demonstrators tried to gather at the Santa Ana cemetery. A far larger number of National Police officers, with the back up of a helicopter, ten horseback police agents, motorized police and the canine brigade, blocked the demonstrators and stopped them from marching.

Today’s demonstration, under the header “The Right to Life and Liberty to Those Who Think Differently” was called on by the Revolutionary Youth Movement as a protest against the disappearance of two activists, feared to have been executed. Alves Kamulingue was kidnapped in Luanda’s downtown on May 27, 2012, while on his way to a demonstration by former members of the Presidential Guard Unit. Isaías Cassule, one of the organizers of the demonstration, was kidnapped two days later, on May 29, 2012. He disappeared in the Cazenga municipality, in Luanda, while looking for leads into the disappearance of Kamulingue.

Since March, 2011, groups of youth have been staging anti-government demonstrations in the streets of the Angolan capital, protesting government violence, wide-spread corruption and the staggering gap between the country’s well-off and the vast majority of poor who, like most of them, live in squalid conditions and have seen little on no benefits from Angola’s recent economic boom.

Besides brutal beatings and unlawful arrests of protesters, in past demonstrations, President Dos Santos’ regime has also attempted to bribe the leaders of the youth movement. Threats against the youth and their families have also been part of the harassment campaign to quell any idea of an Arab Spring in Angola.

The United Nations recently condemned the Angolan government for human rights violations, in a report issued by its Human Rights Commission.