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Angola: Preemptive Maneuver Cancels “Revolution”

A week after the date of the revolution supposed to “dethrone” Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and his royal court, the situation in the country appears calm. As if there had never even been a call for revolution.

The actions of the State contributed greatly to this. A preemptive manoeuvre which involved putting troops at the ready and convened pro-MPLA (Movimento Popular  de Libertação de Angola) [Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – the ruling party] rallies from Cabinda to Cunene [Pt].

Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Image by Ricardo Stuckert/PR for Agência Brasil (Creative Commons License Attribution 2.5 Brazil)).

Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Image by Ricardo Stuckert/PR for Agência Brasil (Creative Commons License Attribution 2.5 Brazil)).

Protesters silenced… before the protest

According to reports that reached Human Rights Watch [en] the government rally promoting peace was made possible by intimidation.

From the blog Página Um (Page One) [Pt]:

O partido no poder convocou uma “marcha da paz” pró-governo em Luanda e várias cidades provinciais a 5 de março. A Human Rights Watch recebeu vários relatos credíveis de que funcionários do governo e do partido no poder obrigaram professores e funcionários públicos em Luanda e várias capitais provinciais a participar. Os professores foram ameaçados com despedimentos ou cortes salariais e obrigados a pressionar os seus alunos a participarem, ameaçando-os com “problemas” caso ficassem em casa.

Residentes de Luanda contaram à Human Rights Watch que o partido no poder utilizou autocarros e comboios públicos para transportar pessoas da periferia de Luanda para a marcha de 5 de Março no centro da cidade.

The party in power convened a pro-Government “peace march” in Luanda and in various provincial cities on March 5. Human Rights Watch received various credible reports that civil servants of the government and the party in power forced teachers and civil servants in Luanda and various provincial capitals to participate. The teachers were threatened with losing their jobs and salary cuts and forced to pressure their students to participate, threatening them with “problems” if they stayed at home.

Residents in Luanda told Human Rights Watch that the party in power used public buses and trains to transport people from the outskirts of Luanda for the march on March 5th in the center of the city.

As Global Voices reported, in the early morning of March 7th, the police arrested seventeen people who had gathered in the 1st of May Square in Luanda.

The protesters, the majority of whom were musicians and poets, were taken by the police to the police stations, without exception. Also some journalists who were on location to cover the protest were taken in to give statements. All were released that same day.

The blog Esquerda.Net (Left.net) [pt] makes reference to the oppression by the Angolan State.

Os manifestantes detidos pela polícia angolana esta madrugada, incluindo os quatro jornalistas do Novo Jornal e o rapper Luaty Beirão, conhecido por Brigadeiro Mata Frakuxz, foram libertados na manhã desta segunda-feira.

The protesters detained by the Angolan police this morning, including four journalists from Novo Jornal and the rapper Luaty Beirão, known as Brigadeiro Mata Frakuxz, were freed this Monday morning.

It is worth remembering here that Brigadeiro Mata Frakuxz [Pt] is known in the country for his open opposition to the Government, having performed days before being arrested, appealing for the masses to show up on March 7. Beyond this concert, which can be seen on the blog  Hip Hop de Angola [Pt], Mata Frakuxz had written a statement appealing for revolution that can be read on Esquerda.Net [Pt]. Here is an excerpt:

Queria apenas salientar alguns pontos que considero ser cruciais para que esta manifestação possa ser bem sucedida e gostaria de partilhá-los convosco, não sendo no entanto o meu desejo que isto seja interpretado como uma imposição ou um desejo de assumir liderança de um movimento que eu quero que continue a ser popular e sem rosto, pois ao contrário de muitos, eu não acho que o povo precise de um rosto para seguir, o povo segue-se a si próprio e a sua consciência que estamos a querer tornar colectiva.

I just wanted to highlight some points that I consider to be crucial for the protest to be successful and I would like to share them with you, while it is not my wish that this be interpreted as an imposition or a wish to assume leadership of a movement that want to continue to be popular and “faceless”. As opposed to others, I do not think the people needs a figure to follow, the people follow themselves and their conscience, which we want to make collective.

“Angola is Angola”

The famous Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa, raised his voices and joined the protests for a democratic Angola, through a letter directed to José Eduardo dos Santos that can be read on the blog Reflectindo sobre Moçambique (Relecting on Mozambique) [Pt]. In the letter, Agualusa starts by calling attention to the events in North Africa:

Senhor Presidente,

África vive um momento de viragem na sua História, só comparável ao levantamento que libertou o continente do domínio colonial. A revolução agora é pela liberdade e pela democracia.

Os cidadãos angolanos abaixo-assinados vêm por este meio pedir ao Senhor Presidente da República que tenha em atenção os últimos acontecimentos na Tunísia, Egipto e Líbia, reinicie de forma séria o processo de democratização, formalmente começado de maneira sinuosa em 1992, mas, definitivamente interrompido em 2010 com a aprovação da nova constituição e que ao mesmo tempo se retire da Presidência da República e da presidência do MPLA o mais depressa possível, sem prejuízo da estabilidade e continuidade das instituições. Os abaixo assinados acreditam que ainda é possível que o Senhor Presidente abandone o poder de forma digna e honrosa, preservando a integridade da nação.

Mr. President,

Africa lives a turning point moment in its history, only comparable to the uprising that freed the continent from colonial domination. The revolution now is for liberty and for democracy.

The below-signed citizens ask Mr President of the Republic, that you pay attention to the latest events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, reinitiate in a serious way the democratization process, formally begun in 1992 in a sinuous way but definitively interrupted in 2010 with the approval of the new constitution, and at the same time that you withdraw from the Presidency of the Republic and the Presidency of the MPLA in the fastest possible way, without prejudicing the stability and continuity of state institutions. The below-signed believe that it is still possible that you Mr President leave power in a dignified and honorable way, preserving the integrity of the nation.

Cardoso Jr. (@SuperCjr) wrote on Twitter [Pt]:

Manifestantes em Angola tentaram marchar e foram presos. Angola não é Tunísia, muito menos Egipto, Angola é Angola. #TRISTE!

Protesters in Angola tried to march and they were arrested. Angola is not Tunisia, much less Egypt. Angola is Angola. #SAD!

Helena Ferro de Gouveia, on the blog Domadora de Camaleões, summarizes [Pt] an article by Vasco Martins of IPRIS (Instituto Português de Relações Internacionais e Segurança) [The Portuguese Institute of Foreign Relations and Security], that says that “Angola's time has yet to come“. In the article the differences between the countries are quite clear:

Há explicações várias para a não inscrição no protesto. Os angolanos calam-se porque são frescas e escritas a sangue as memórias da guerra civil. É uma estratégia de sobrevivência, não destabilizar a vida que têm. Miserável, mas vida. Deter o olhar sobre os números também ajuda a entender o silêncio. Apenas vinte por cento dos homens e trinta e cinco por cento das mulheres sabe ler e escrever. Quantos saberão usar o twitter ou colocar status no Facebook?

There are numerous explanations why people did not adhere to the protest. Angolans silence themselves because memories from the civil war are fresh and written in blood. It is a survival strategy, to not destabilize the life one has. Miserable, but life. Looking at the numbers also helps to understand the silence. Only twenty per cent of men and thirty five per cent of women know how to read and write. How many will know how to use twitter and put their status on Facebook?

In spite of the call to revolution not having the hoped response, many believe the episode served to sound out the anxieties of the people and to measure the “tension” level of the government. Rafael Marques, journalist and anti-corruption activist, attests to just this [Pt]:

A reacção do MPLA vale mais do que a própria convocatória, acaba por demonstrar a fraqueza do próprio regime, não havia necessidade de responder a uma convocatória anónima.

The reaction of the MPLA was worth more than the call [to revolt], ending up demonstrating the weakness of the very regime, which should not need to respond to an anonymous call [to revolt].

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