National Police Covers Up the Kidnapping of Activists
Eight of the nine demonstrators detained by the Angolan National Police on 29 July were seized again immediately after the police authorities had set them free, and held for a day with their whereabouts unknown.
Adão Bunga “MC Life”, Adolfo Campos, Agostinho Epalanga, Laurinda Gouveia, Manuel José Afonso “Feridão”, Raúl Mandela and Valdemiro Piedade experienced harrowing moments. Some of these individuals are among the most persecuted by the authorities, and have been detained and tortured several times before.
A group of police arrested the activists around 4 pm near Cine Atlântico in Vila Alice, while they were on their way to join the demonstration at Largo de Independência.
The police detained them, or “collected” them as the official account has it, and took them to the Third Police Station at Pau da Cobra in Vila Alice. Mário Faustino, who had only recently been released after more than 40 days in detention, and Kika Delegado joined other activists who were already in police custody.
Half an hour later, the police station commander put those who had been “collected” into a Toyota Landcruiser and had them driven to the Viana municipality. They were escorted by a patrol vehicle and three motorbikes.
“During the journey we were shouting in protest inside the vehicle. We stopped in front of the gate of the Viana prison, waiting for instructions.”
According to the activists a third vehicle arrived on the scene and kept in contact with the head of mission. Following new orders the convoy set off for Luanda-Sul, and released the demonstrators in an unlit spot in Jacinto Tchipa neighbourhood.
João Paposseco Suanga, who had money with him, immediately went in search of transport to get home to Kilometre 30 in Viana.
“We wanted to ask for someone to come and fetch us because we didn’t have enough money to pay everyone’s transport,” Mário Faustino explained. He added that they suddenly found themselves surrounded by two vehicles with tinted windows. Plainclothes men got out, armed and wearing cartridge belts, and pointed their guns at them. “They made us lie down in one of the vehicles, stretched out face-down and one on top of the other like sacks of manioc,” he said.
Thus began the activists’ extraordinary ordeal. All of those contacted individually by Maka Angola told the same story of having spent almost 24 hours like “canned sardines” being driven around in the car, which ended up in the bush, east of Luanda.
“We thought we were being taken to be slaughtered,” Feridão said.
Mário Faustino recounted the physical violence he had suffered. “I suffered the most from being stamped on, kicked and punched, because our captors accused me of being the main ringleader in getting former soldiers to demonstrate. I can’t even stand up from the beating and the pain.”
“We stopped for a few hours during the night but we had no idea where we were and no sense of time,” Laurinda Gouveia said. The only woman in the group added that the kidnappers did not even provide water for the captives to drink for nearly 24 hours.
According to Adolfo Campos, their kidnappers would stop the vehicles when requested to allow the activists to relieve themselves, but always blindfolded. They also stopped during the day to allow their captors to be substituted or to rest.
“They were like witches. We always stopped in the middle of the bush. We got the impression that they were waiting for orders from a higher authority to execute us.”
Mário Faustino highlighted that, apart from the initial orders “the kidnappers did not speak to us. They were always on the phone, and they would stop the vehicles to speak out of the cars. We could only hear orders and codified language.”
At about 6 pm, the detainees said, the vehicles stopped and they were ordered to get out and line up with their backs to their captors.
“They said that if we looked back we would be shot,” Feridão said.
The police then went away. “A short while later, one of us had the courage to look around and saw that our kidnappers had gone, and left the bag with our phones,” Mário Faustino said.
Mário Faustino, soon realised they were in the area of Cabala, in the Icolo e Bengo region that he knows very well as his family comes from there. They switched on their phones and called friends to arrange transport to come and fetch them.
“These old men, rulers and commanders have lost all sense and no longer know what they are doing. This is very dangerous”, Adolfo Campos remarked.
Attack at Paposseco’s house
Chief Commissioner António Sita, the Luanda provincial police commander, told Maka Angola at the time that the missing activists were hiding voluntarily at Paposseco’s house. He also said he would send a patrol car to “see them”.
“Commander Sita received false information from his underlings or through secret means. What the commander said about the activists having hidden in my house is nothing but lies,” Paposseco said.
The next day, 30 July, Paposseco went to work and got on with his daily routine. It was almost midday when a colleague who had read the news on Maka Angola told him about Sita’s statement that Paposseco had hidden the missing people in order o create “political facts” against the government.
About 4 pm the same day, police surrounded Paposseco’s home and detained his brother, who was taken to the Kilometre 30 police station. “They searched the whole house. My wife gave birth a few weeks ago. The baby was asleep when the police made her take the baby so they could search the mattress [for the disappeared activists].”
Paposseco said that even their neighbour was searched. “The police also invaded his house. They used the ruse that they were looking for drugs.”
Meanwhile, at the police station, “the detectives were displaying photos of me and of the missing revús [anti-government activists]. They wanted to know where we were,” Paposseco said.