From a CIA Conspiracy Theory to the Murdering of Activists
The trial regarding the 2012 killing of Angolan political activists Alves Kamulingue and Isaías Cassule, which resumed on November 18, continues today. The central question still concerns who, in the chain of command of the state and the ruling MPLA, ordered their deaths? What is known is that the two had been involved in organizing a demonstration on 27 May 2012, which was intended to involve former members of the Presidential Guard and demobilized soldiers. After negotiations with and pressure from the Presidential Intelligence Bureau, the former presidential guards pulled out of the protests.
A further question is why the alleged killers of both men are being charged in a single case, although each death involved a different group of suspects. A total of seven suspects have been detained. In the Kamulingue case, two National Intelligence and State Security (SINSE) officials have been charged: António Gamboa Vieira Lopes and Paulo Mota, respectively the former head and deputy head of SINSE in Luanda. From the National Police, the suspects are the then head of Criminal Investigation Directorate in Luanda’s Ingombota district, Manuel Miranda, the head of Information Services at Ingombota district police station, Luís Miranda, and a Provincial Criminal Investigation Directorate (DPIC) member, Francisco Pimentel Tenda Daniel “Kiko”, who is accused of pulling the trigger. In the Cassule case, the suspects in detention are an MPLA member Maurício Júnior “Tcheu”, and SINSE’s then head of operations in Luanda, known as Fragoso.
On May 26, 2012 the President’s security chief, General Kopelipa, called a meeting to discuss what steps to take against the organizers of the demonstration. Present alongside senior police and security officials was António Gamboa Vieira Lopes, the former SINSE official who is now among those facing charges in connection with the killing of Kamulingue.
SINSE was faced with the task of identifying who had signed the letter sent to the Luanda Provincial Government by the organisers of the demonstration. It is not known what other orders were received during this meeting, and who gave them. The then Interior Minister and head of SINSE, Sebastião Martins, has been named by some press reports as being responsible for the killings, though he was not present at the meeting. The then governor of Luanda province, Bento Bento, has also been mentioned as a suspect, and has publicly denied any involvement.
In November 2013 the newspaper Folha 8 published the details of how the two activists were killed, and the weekly A Capital has published details of what emerged in court. Maka Angola here concentrates on details that have escaped public attention.
The first detention made by the National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC) in connection with the case reveals how political interests manipulated the justice system.
On 26 February 2013, DNIC’s director Eugénio Pedro Alexandre issued a warrant for the arrest of Alberto Santos, another organizer of the planned demonstration, for “participating in the kidnapping” of Kaumulingue and Cassule. At the time when the demonstration was planned, Santos was working as a mechanic for the Intelligence Bureau of the President.
Interviewed by Maka Angola while in prison, Santos said that Fernando Recheado, an official of DNIC, and Armindo César, the official in charge of his case, had interrogated him. Both insisted that he accuse the main opposition party, UNITA, of having paid him to kidnap his colleagues Kamulingue and Cassule.
“I refused to tell such a lie,” Santos said. He explained that Recheado claimed the state would protect him, but that if he did not implicate UNITA, “I would spend a long time in jail and would suffer a lot.”
Santos spent more than six months in jail while DNIC tried to cover up its own operatives’ involvement in the shooting of Kamulingue. Why has there been no inquiry into this?
Let’s look at the two cases one by one.
Kamulingue and the meeting with the ‘CIA’
According to testimony heard in court, Alves Kamulingue had a meeting some time before his abduction and killing with a “CIA agent” named as Elisabeth “Lisa” Rimli at the Hotel Skyna. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the secret service of the United States. This fact was taken by the court to justify a secret operation by the Angolan secret services to put an end to a supposed act of espionage.
In reality Rimli, a 50-year-old Swiss citizen, was the Angola researcher for Human Rights Watch, but was not in the country during the period in question. Maka Angola has seen SINSE’s report on Rimli (000034/13), which includes some clearly fabricated information about her visits to Angola over the years. It seems particularly interested in Rimli’s trips to Angola since 2011, during which it claims she met “subversive” elements and “instigated” demonstrations. Yet even this report makes no mention of a meeting with Kamulingue or even a visit to Angola in May 2012. In fact, she returned to Angola only the following month, and met Kamulingue’s family on June 16, as part of her research into the disappearance of him and other demonstrators.
The report accuses the US embassy in Angola of being the CIA’s “legal centre” in Angola “in creating political conditions ideal for insurrection, to overthrow the power legally established and led by the MPLA and thus to bring about an ‘Angolan spring’”.
The SINSE report calls on the Interior Ministry to expel Rimli within 24 hours and to refuse any future visa applications from her. In suggesting such measures , SINSE appears to be following a chain of command, notwithstanding its lack of rigour with the facts. The Interior Minister did not expel Lisa Rimli nor was an order enacted to deny her visas. Months later, in September 2013, she came back to Angola. She hasn’t returned to Angola since. Her job position was temporarily abolished, due to the expiration of funds that HRW received from Oxfam Novib, a Dutch NGO, for that purpose.
The “Agent” Lisa Rimli
The report mentions Lisa Rimli’s supposed network with contacts that are hostile to the regime. The lawyer David Mendes of the Associação Mãos Livres, and Rafael Marques de Morais lead the list of “hostile” contacts. On her visits to the above mentioned association, the researcher usually met with Salvador Freire. The NGOs Omunga and SOS Habitat are also duly labelled as conspirative, jointly with Lisa Rimli, in the “production of reports against the Angolan government.”
According to the SINSE operatives, Lisa Rimli was “directly involved in the instigation of and participation in the demonstration of December 3, 2011, in Luanda, accompanied by the youngsters Luaty Beirão also known as ‘Mata Frakuzx’ and Gonçalves Casimiro also known as ‘Carbono’, members of the ‘Continuous Currents Circuit – CCC’.”
The SINSE report states that Lisa Rimli monitored “the rebel groups in Egypt until the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak”. The report accuses Lisa Rimli of training the Angolan “pseudo-revolutionaries”, using the same methods applied during her stay in Egypt.
It also explains that the human rights defender returned to Angola in 2013 with “the intention to continue to unfold actions of intelligence and instigation with the CCC members, political opposition parties and other hostile civil society organizations, in order to monitor and instruct them in the implementation of public demonstrations against the established power, under the most varied false pretences, which clearly constitutes an act of subversion.”
The Kamulingue case
Meanwhile, Kamulingue was himself a SINSE agent from 2010, a year before the first anti-government demonstrations led by youth in Luanda. He was recruited while working in the Presidential Guard’s boot factory, which closed in 2011. As early as 2010 Kamulingue campaigned for workers’ rights, and was detained by police for being an “agitator”. He was released thanks to SINSE’s intervention.
On the day of his disappearance, on May 27, 2012, he was abducted after 2pm in front of Colégio Elizângela, between the Military Hospital and Largo da Independência, and taken to the south of Luanda in a Chevrolet Spark car. The man who lured Kamulingue into a trap and identified him was the SINSE agent Benilson Pereira “Tukayano”, an informer among the demonstrators. Once the trap was set up, Benilson Pereira informed his immediate superior, a man called Lourenço. Lourenço telephoned the then head of SINSE in Luanda, António Vieira Lopes, who in turn reported, again by phone, to the then interim provincial commander of the National Police, commissioner Dias do Nascimento. The latter put Vieira Lopes in touch with Amaro, the head of the Luanda Provincial Criminal Investigation Directorate. This gave rise to the joint operation involving officials both of the police (Manuel Miranda) and of SINSE (Paulo Mota). When Kamulingue was shot dead, those present included Paulo Mota, Manuel Miranda, Luís Miranda and Francisco Daniel “Kiko”.
From there on, there are divergent accounts over who was responsible for ordering Kiko to execute Kamulingue with a shot to the head. Paulo Mota, at the time the SINSE deputy chief in Luanda, was following the car in which Kamulingue was taken away, and kept his boss, Vieira Lopes, constantly updated on the operation.
Before he was shot, Kamulingue informed his captors that he was secretly an agent for SINSE, and begged them not to harm him. The police officials say it was Paulo Mota who ordered his killing, but Kiko, who pulled the trigger, said he received the order from Manuel Miranda. Either way, where did the higher order come from?
The Cassule case
In the Cassule case, there was involvement by the ruling MPLA’s Luanda Provincial Committee. The man suspected of directing the kidnapping, Maurício Júnior “Tcheu”, is a member of the VIP Protection Unit. His job at the MPLA’s Provincial Headquarters involved organizing the activities of the “kaenches”, an illegal militia responsible for violent attacks against demonstrators and opposition activists and leaders.
Who in the MPLA Provincial Committee gave Tcheu his orders? The first secretary of the committee is Bento Bento, and its secretary for organization and mobilization in rural and peri-urban areas is General Bento Kangamba. Who in the MPLA commissioned Tcheu’s services?
Just as in Kamulingue’s case, it was Benilson Pereira “Tukayano” who led Cassule and Alberto Santos into a trap in front of the Angola and Cuba school in Luanda’s Cazenga district. SINSE’s involvement, through the role played by Tukayano, is known thanks to information provided by Tcheu, who claims to have received a message by phone from Fragoso, SINSE’s head of operations in Luanda, saying “get rid of the man”.
Cassule was asphyxiated and his body was thrown to the crocodiles from the bridge over the River Bengo in Kifangondo.
Tukayano provided information to a SINSE agent who in turn reported to Paulo Mota. How could the SINSE head of operations have broken the hierarchy and the chain of command by giving orders directly to someone working for the MPLA Provincial Committee? Why was this not explained in court? This raises questions over what role Bento Bento and Bento Kangamba played in the creation of the kaenches. Why did DNIC and the Attorney General’s office never investigate the charges laid in connection with the attacks on opposition leaders and demonstrators? Were they acting purely on the basis of their own political loyalties, or on orders from above – and if the latter, from whom exactly?
As became apparent in Lisa Rimli’s case, SINSE not only reports to the competent authorities, but advises them on the measures to be taken.
Apartments for the accused
Meanwhile, all the accused in the case have been rewarded with apartments in the new Chinese-built Kilamba housing development, and money for them and their families to travel abroad.
The President of the Republic, José Eduardo dos Santos, interfered with the judicial process by promoting António Vieira Lopes to brigadier on May 6, 2014. This led to the suspension of the trial since the Luanda Provincial Court said it was not competent to try a general. Just four months later on September 22, the president revoked the promotion and ordered an inquiry into why this “inopportune and inconvenient” decision had been taken. Generals Kopelipa and Zé Maria, who are respectively head of the Intelligence Bureau of the President, and head of the Military Intelligence and Security Service, would have certainly discussed the decision. Both have oversight of all decisions taken by the presidency concerning military promotions. On May 26, 2012, the day before the abduction and execution of Kamulingue, both generals hosted some of the suspects at the presidency to discuss strategies on how to deal with the protesters. What instructions did these generals issue?
We need to know who ordered the killings that president Dos Santos claims were not politically motivated.