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Angola: Violence Against Protest for Fair Elections

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

With the slogan: “Against Fraud in the Next Elections”, the city of Luanda was again the stage for a protest on the morning of March 10, 2012. And again, according to some reports [en], the State made its strong arm felt, repressing violently a right of all citizens.

The demonstration was supposed to protest against the ways in which the 2012 elections are being prepared. According to a note that accompanied the call to protest, the nomination by MPLA (the party in power) of its member, Suzana Inglês, to preside over the National Electoral Commission (CNE), violates Article 143 of the Law of the Elections approved in December unanimously.

Quoting the note, “The opposition has resorted to a boycott, abandoning in a block the negotiation table, in protest of the ignorant impositions of the absolute majority.”

Poster for the March 10 protest

Poster for the March 10 protest

Discontentment with the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos [en], in power since 1979, brought Angolan people to the streets again, to demand the criteria of impartiality of the Election Law, the formation of an independent National Electoral Commission, but also a more generic call to action: “Angolans United Against Corruption. Zé Du out!”

They were received with a strong police response, according to reports [en] from various people on the spot, on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

At the end of the day, Nelson Pestana, jurist, political scientist and university researcher, summarized in a note on Facebook republished by the blog Círculo Angola Intelectual, what awaited protestors on the morning of March 10, when they met up in the neighborhood of Cazenga, in Luanda:

O bando do mal já lá estava. A Polícia Nacional estava espalha pelo percurso anunciado, colocada como se estivesse emboscada. O lumpenato nacional contava pois com o apoio e a cumplicidade da Polícia Nacional que era suposto estar ali para manter a ordem pública, garantir a segurança dos manifestantes e fazer com que a Constituição da República fosse respeitada e não fosse pisoteada por um bando de mal-feitores. O que aconteceu não foi nada disto, como teria sido, num país civilizado. Os homens do mal começaram a agredir os manifestantes, de forma inusitadamente violenta, sem mais, nem menos. Traziam barras de ferro e armas de guerra.

The band of bad guys was already there. The Police was spread out across the announced route [of the protest], positioned like there was an ambush underway. The national lumpen was then counting on the support and complicity of the National Police that was supposed to be there to maintain the public order, guarantee security of the protesters and see that the Constitution of the Republic would be respected and not be trampled on by a band of wrong-doers. What happened was none of that, as it would be, in a civilized country. The bad guys started to attack the protesters, in a gratuitously violent way, sparing nothing. They brought iron bars and the arms of war.

The blog Universal disseminated a series of updates made on location:

Luaty [Beirão, rapper conhecido como Brigadeiro Mata Frakuxz] tem a cabeça partida jorrando sangue e ainda se encontra em parte incerta; Luamba foi igualmente raptado; Explosivo Mental e Adolfo estão em situação complicada no local. Luaty Beirão foi ferido na cabeça e Mário Domingos foi levado pelos polícias. (…) Fernando Tomás, Amarildo Will Bento Tonet, Mário Domingos, organizador da manifestação voltou a desaparecer, um dos seus colegas está gravemente ferido. Segundo informações de jornalistas no local há disparos feitos pela polícia.

Luaty [Beirão, rapper known as Brigadeiro Mata Frakuxz] had his head smashed up, gushing blood and where he is still not known; Luamba was also kidnapped; Explosivo Mental and Adolfo are in tough spot there. Luaty Beirão was wounded in his head and Mário Domingos was taken by police. (…) Fernando Tomás, Amarildo Will Bento Tone, Mário Domingos, organizer of the protest disappeared again, and one of his peers is seriously wounded. According to information from journalists on the ground, shots were fired by police.

On the day before, allegedly, the government had put its plan into action. Rapper Carbono Casimiro was target of a surprise visit in his house – by a dozen individuals dressed in black, ready to attack, as its reported in the blog Central, which also published photos of the aggressors and of the victims:

"Wanted: Attackers of protesters". Image by Central 7311

"Wanted: Attackers of protesters". Image by Central 7311

A casa tinha acabado de ser invadida por uma dezena de homens trajados de preto, armados com ferros e soqueiras metálicas, que arrombaram porta, janela do quarto e que deram início a um festim de pancadaria a todos os presentes: Sampaio Liberdade, Cavera C, Santeiro, Nelito e o próprio Carbono. Chegaram numa carrinha e colocaram-se dois matulões no portão de entrada que dá acesso às três outras residências para além da do Carbono, impedindo que alguém entrasse ou saísse. Estando o único acesso à casa fechado, os jovens viram-se encurralados e foram mais uma vez castigados por pensar diferente. (…) É incrível o nível de confiança que estes homens revelam, pois em plena luz do dia e mascarados apenas com chapéus e óculos escuros, fazem tudo aos olhos de todos. Os habitantes da rua do Carbono estavam todos aglomerados lá fora assistindo, um após outro, saírem lesionados e ensanguentados os agredidos. A polícia ainda recalcitrou, resistindo, tal como acontecera com o Mário Domingos, registar a queixa. Mas os jovens não arredaram pé e essa formalidade ficou cumprida.

[Carbono Casimiro's] house had just been invaded by a dozen men wearing black, armed with iron bars and brass knuckles, who busted down the door, his room's window and began dishing out beatings to all those present: Sampaio Liberdade, Cavera C, Santeiro, Nelito and Carbono himself. They arrived in a van and put two big boys at the gate which gave access to the other houses, not letting anybody enter or leave. With the only exit sealed off, the young people found themselves trapped and were again punished for thinking differently. (…) It is incredible level of confidence that these men show, as they do everything in broad daylight with only hats and sunglasses, for everyone to see. The residents of Carbono's street were all gathered outside watching one after the other of the attacked came out injured and bloodied. The police withdrew, resisting taking a report, as had happened with Mário Domingos. But the young people did not budge and this formality was carried out.

The city of Benguela was also included on the route for freedom of speech scheduled for March 10, but police forces foiled the initiative, as one can read on Club-K:

A manifestação era organizada por um grupo de jovens da cidade capital da província de Benguela e estava marcada para acontecer no principio da tarde deste sábado, e tinha o seu ponto de partida marcado para o jardim defronte a Escola 10 de Fevereiro, com culmino no jardim defronte ao mercado municipal ” mais conhecido como jardim milionário”; mas o executivo de Benguela proibiu o evento a pretexto de não obedecer a lei. Segundo alegava na nota entregue quinta-feira aos organizadores o percurso escolhido encontravam-se duas sedes de partidos políticos, “no caso o MPLA” .

The protest was organized by a group of young people in the capital city of the province of Benguela and was set to happen in the beginning of the afternoon of this Saturday, and had as a meeting point the garden in front of the Tenth of February School, with an end-point at the garden in front of the municipal market “better known as the millionaire's garden”; but the mayor of Benguela prohibited the event on the pretext that it did not follow the law. According to the note delivered on Thursday to organizers, along the  chosen route were the headquarters of political parties, “in this case MPLA [the ruling party]”.

A number of members of the Angolan association of human rights defenders OMUNGA were imprisoned as a result of police intervention in Benguela, as is explained on their blog Quintas de Debate where photos of victims were also published. The organization announced another protest for March 17, to “demand the substitution of Suzana Inglês as President of the National Electoral Commission but also in solidarity with all of our countrymen repressed, humiliated, tortured, kidnapped, discredited and insulted for wanting to construct a democratic country and to demand the end of repression, prohibition, restriction of the right to protest”.

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