Violence and Arrests Thwarted Another Protest in Angola
On July 30, the Angolan authorities played a game of cat and mouse regarding the whereabouts of nine activists who were detained on Wednesday during a demonstration in support of 15 political prisoners.
When approached by Maka Angola, the Luanda provincial police commander, Commissioner-Chief António Sita, started by saying “we haven’t detained anyone. [The activists] were being collected and directed to [the activist] David Salei’s home [in Viana municipality].
Adão Bunga “MC Life”, Adolfo Campos, Agostinho Epalanga, Kika Delegado, Laurinda Gouveia, Manuel José Afonso “Feridão”, Mário Faustino, Raúl Mandela and Valdemiro Piedade were held incommunicado since they were “collected” by the National Police at Largo da Independência (Independence Square).
Commander Sita declared that the activists “want to create a political fact. They are playing a dirty game. They have switched off their mobile phones and are hiding at Kilometre 30 [in Viana] at Paposseco’s house.” He added that in order to clarify the situation, he had sent a police patrol “to see them”.
Maka Angola has confirmed that the National Police detained – or in Commissioner-Chief Sita’s words, “collected” – a total of 33 activists and four journalists who were released a few hours later. But the whereabouts of nine remained unknown for 24 hours. The account of their kidnapping is reported here.
History is repeating itself. An attempted anti-government demonstration has been suppressed by the National Police, while a demonstration planned by the MPLA at Largo de Independência earned the protection of the authorities.
Assaults at David’s house
The first known act of repression against the demonstration took place at the home of activist David Salei, in the Estalagem Km14A district of Viana, more than 10 kilometres from Largo de Independência. About 15 young people were there, preparing posters in support of the 15 political prisoners suspected of planning a coup d’état. The demonstration was planned for 3 pm, but by this time Largo de Independência had already been occupied by an MPLA counter-demonstration.
Around 2 pm, a column of four police vehicles, personally led by the Viana municipal police commander, Francisco Notícia, occupied the house by force and detained 11 activists including Emiliano Catumbela, Paulo Evangelista José António Luís “Katró”, Laurindo Francisco Tomás “Tenaz”, Afonso Raúl, Baixa de Kassanje, Gildo dos Santos, Baptista, Joaquim Francisco Lugamba, Edgar Lapitia, and Domingos Kandela.
“I managed to run away because I was outside keeping watch. I saw two police patrols and two white cars. I recognised Commander Notícia but we didn’t have time to let our friends know. We were betrayed by an infiltrator within the group who revealed where we were,” said Manuel José Afonso “Feridão”, aged 25.
“We were betrayed,” confirmed Emiliano Catumbela after he was released. He said it was odd that David Salei, António Kissanda “Beimani Residentível” and Coronel Fuba had left the house in time to avoid the police and had then kept their phones switched off and not told the others of their whereabouts.
“The police didn’t come in through the gate. They surrounded the yard and jumped over the wall. They pointed guns at our heads. I had to beg Commander Notícia not to torture us. Baixa de Kassanje is in a very bad state from being beaten by the police,” Emiliano Catumbela said. He said Commander Notícia had told them they would not be harmed. The youth were then taken to Police Station 44 at Km 9A in Viana where they were held until 7 pm and then released.
The police returned to David Salei’s house looking for evidence that a crime had been committed, and also searched neighbouring houses for no other reason than that they faced the same yard. Maka Angola has established that the police showed no search warrants for the houses.
Paulo Evangelista, one of the detainees, said the commander claimed to have received “orders from above” to detain them because “we were preparing to carry out an illegal demonstration”.
At the police station, Paulo had a sense that the police were showing some solidarity. “Some of them told us secretly that they had orders to treat us badly, but they didn’t because their salaries are in arrears and because we have the right to demonstrate,” he said.
“In the end, Commander Raúl Mandavela said there were other ‘orders from above’ to set us free, and apologised for the inconvenience of our detention,” he added.
Paulo also said the commander ordered four of the 11 detainees to go home bare-chested because they were wearing t-shirts with “criminal slogans”. He was talking about t-shirts with the words “32 years is too much”, referring to the 2011 demonstrations when President dos Santos had been in power for 32 years, and “Zé Du [Dos Santos] disgusting dictator”.
“It was cold and we asked if we could wear our t-shirts inside out so we wouldn’t be walking around bare-chested, but the commander refused. I wondered if we were in a jungle or a democratic state,” Paulo Evangelista said.
Beimani Residentível, one of those suspected by the detainees of having betrayed them, said in his defence that he had been warned of an infiltrator among the activists who gathered at Salei’s house. “We decided to leave without raising the alarm or identifying the suspect.”
Shortly afterwards, David Salei, Beimani Residentível and Coronel Fuba were in a police vehicle when Maka Angola contacted them by telephone.
“We were being taken to the Luanda [police] Operational Headquarters,” Coronel Fuba said.
According to Beimani Residentível, the head of the Main Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence, Intelligence Services and Military Security (SISM), Lieutenant General José Afonso Pires “Filó” and the Luanda provincial police commander, Commissioner António Sita, spoke to the group of three detainees in a room for half an hour.
“Lieutenant General Filó introduced himself by saying he was the general known as ‘killer’ but that he was a good person and was there to talk to us and not to order our deaths,” Beimani said.
He said Filó wanted to know who the leaders were of the various cells of the self-styled Revolutionary Movement, which brings together groups of anti-regime activists. Beimani said the general was particularly interested to know who the leaders were of the group in the Rocha Pinto suburb.
“I said that we had no leaders, and that I did not know the leaders of other groups. The general showed us photos of a meeting we had had with the president of UNITA, Isaías Samakuva. At that meeting, it was only the UNITA leadership who took photos,” he said.
Beimani revealed that during the “conversation”, Filó had taken a phone call from the head of SISM, General Zé Maria, whom he had told openly that “the situation is under control and only two are missing”. Beimani said Raúl Mandela was one of the two demonstrators that the intelligence services particularly wanted to see detained. “They asked me to phone Mandela to come and meet me so they could detain him, but I refused. But in the end he was detained anyway.”
“Even in front of us, Lieutenant-General Filó gave orders [by phone] for the police to beat the demonstrators,” Beimani said.
Around 6 pm, the detainees were to be taken to the police station next to the police headquarters. Like something out of a book by Kafka, the officer in charge made a detour, with the detainees in the vehicle, to fetch his daughter from the private school that she attends. “The daughter, aged 14 or 15, refused to get into the Toyota Landcruiser as it was a police car. Her father asked her to wait for another lift while he took us to the headquarters,” one of the detainees said.
Beaten in front of Abel’s house
At the Largo de Independência (Independence Square), the police used dogs to disperse the anti-regime demonstrators. Líbano Albano, 30, was one of the activists who escaped from the square but was then intercepted by police more than a kilometre away in the Alvalade neighbourhood. “I was caught at about 4.30 pm in front of Dr Abel Chivukuvuku’s house [the president of the CASA-CE political party]. The police set about beating and kicking me and didn’t stop even when I was bleeding,” Líbano said.
He said the police stopped beating him only when Chivukuvuku came out of his house and personally intervened. “Dr Abel told his driver to take me to hospital where I was treated and received four stitches on my head. Thanks to his intervention I was not detained and the worst did not happen.”
At about 6 pm two armed police stopped the Reuters correspondent, Herculano Coroado, at Largo das Heroínas while he was on his way home. They hauled off Coroado in a police van together with three other journalists from the opposition radio station Rádio Despertar, who had been arrested earlier while covering the attempted demonstration at Largo de Independência. The journalists were taken to Madeira police station in the Cassequel neighbourhood where they were held for two hours, along with seven activists who had been trying to join the demonstration and four bystanders.
“The police kept all the detainees’ phones to examine the contents and delete photos of the demonstration,” Coroado said.
He also noted that an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had been detained because “he had been crossing the square and innocently stopped to see what was going on”.
Three tourists from Kuando Kubango province, who were in Luanda to visit relatives, also had bad luck. “They were taking selfies in the square without knowing what was going on, and were detained,” Herculano Coroado said.
“Commander Pedro dos Santos from the 5th Police Station appeared on the scene, acknowledged the excesses of the police, apologised to the journalists and bystanders and ordered the immediate release of all those detained because of the demonstration,” Coroado said.