Police Brutally Repress Protesting Mothers of Political Prisoners

The activist David Salei is in a fragile state after hours in the emergency ward of Américo Boavida Hospital in Luanda as the result of the beating he received during a police crackdown on a protest march organised by the mothers and families of 15 political prisoners.

Fellow activist Paulo Paixão told Maka Angola that David Salei “was brutally kicked in the ribs and abdomen and punched several times. He is in a bad state, he can’t talk properly and one of his legs is paralysed.”

David Salei (right) ended up in the emergency war after severe beatings by the police.

“I was hit twice in the back but I managed to escape,” Paulo Paixão said.

The elder sister of the political prisoner Fernando Tomás “Nicola Radical” was attacked by a dog that police unleashed on the demonstrators. The dog latched onto her clothing, and pulled her so that she fell over and was knocked unconscious. The police took her away to receive first aid. Nicola Radical’s wife, Sara João Manuel, was also beaten by police. The whereabouts of both women is currently unknown.

Deolinda Luís, the mother of the political prisoner Benedito Jeremias, was beaten in the lower abdomen with a truncheon by a policeman, and fell over. Another policeman from the canine unit then set his dog upon her. It bit her on the right hand. Although she was bleeding and in severe pain, the police would not let her seek medical attention, so as to cover up their own brutality.

These were the most serious of the cases of violent repression against the peaceful march held by the mothers and family members of the 15 political prisoners.

The mothers and sisters of the political prisoners courageously faced the police repression.

Shortly after 2pm, more than 50 people, some of them carrying placards, began their march at Largo da Independência and proceeded along Alameda Manuel Van-Dúnem, keeping to the pavement. “Freedom now,” “free our sons,” and “free our 15”, were the slogans that they chanted, ever more loudly as the police surrounded them. The police presence was discreet at first, but was soon out of all proportion to the small number of demonstrators.

On Avenida Comandante Valódia, just over a kilometre from the starting point, the police and security service officers present at the scene ordered the police to charge at the demonstrators. The mothers were not spared.

Before the start of the march, Leonor João, the mother of the imprisoned activist Afonso Matias “Mbanza Hamza”, had tried, together with the police, to dissuade the other mothers from joining the march. She said she proposed that as an alternative they obey the order by Police Headquarters for the demonstrators to go in the opposite direction towards the Santana Cemetery, where the authorities said they had posted a police detail to “protect” the demonstrators.

Lídia Kivuvu, 23, whose brother Arante Kivuvu is among the political prisoners, said it was impossible to have a conversation with the police because “they behave very badly”. The young woman had been injured when police struck her with batons twice in the leg.

“We were doing no harm to anyone. We were just calling for freedom for our sons and brothers. The way they beat us is a serious case of violence against women,” she said.

On Friday, Adália Chivonde (mother of Nito Alves), Gertrudes Dala (sister of Nuno Álvaro Dala) and Leonor João (mother of Mbanza Hamza), met separately with the deputy attorney general, General Hélder Pita Grós,  and with the head of the National Police, Chief Commissioner Ambrósio de Lemos. During the meetings they made clear their intentions to hold a march, and received responses of “good will from the authorities,” Gertrudes Dala said.

“About the march, commander Ambrósio de Lemos told us that “he is nobody and does not have the right to decide on the issue. He said the decision to defend our family members was up to us. After that, it’s regrettable that he gave orders to beat and set dogs on us,” Gertrudes Dala said.

The activist Raúl Mandela, who helped arrange the meetings between the women and the authorities, was also beaten with a police truncheon during the march. He is now suffering severe headaches.

Nito Alves’s mother Adália Chivonde, received a blow to the leg that knocked her over. “I have a swollen finger. I stayed there where they pushed me and I was hit by a truncheon. It’s wrong that the police hit us like this,” she fumed.

Several youths were also attacked with clubs and dogs. Nelito da Costa wrestled with one of the dogs unleashed by the police. “First, the dog tore my pants. On the second attack, it jumped towards my chest, and I punched it on the muzzle. On the third, it bit me on the left knee”, said Nelito da Costa who managed to outrun the police officers who chased him.

Lúcia Silveira, president of the Justice, Peace and Democracy Association (AJPD), said “The police have reached the limit. By mistreating the mothers, they show the situation is much more serious. This is unacceptable. How can this be justified? The mothers will now attract much more solidarity, and any day, with the economic crisis, more people will take to the streets.”

Journalists threatened

As part of the crackdown, police and security agents “collected,” to use the new police terminology, the journalists Coque Mukuta from Voice of America, and Rafael Marques de Morais, of Maka Angola.

A senior officer, who emerged from a black car with tinted windows, signalled to the police not to detain Rafael Marques de Morais but only to confiscate his camera. There was then a succession of orders and counter-orders, during which police confiscated the camera and returned it three times. Then the order came to take the journalist and his camera to the Third Police Station, and the counter-order to take the equipment and for the journalist to be “accompanied on foot”. Following yet another order, the journalist found himself in a police car being threatened with a beating if he continued to “complain”.

A few minutes later there was a new order to set him free and return his equipment. Meanwhile a police officer continued to threaten him: “You must go towards Rangel [the opposite direction from where he lives], if you try to go towards the city you will feel our powers of coercion.” The journalist refused to obey the order, and reminded the police of how activists had been kidnapped, with police in cahoots with the security services.