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Angola: The Hot Embers of a Repressed Protest

Recent events have shaken Angolan society and the state. A first demonstration against the 32 year-long government of José Eduardo dos Santos happened in March of this year, a second one happened in May. Last week, on September 3, Angolan youth went to the streets once again.

Eugénio Costa Almeida, author of the blog Pululu [pt], commented on the large police response to protesters and did not let the day go by without summing it up:

Um número (in)determinado de Agentes da Polícia  Nacional, travou in extremis, a marcha que cerca de trezentos manifestantes pretendiam fazer em direcção ao Palácio Presidencial da Cidade Alta, depois de se terem manifestadado na Praça da Independência na manhã deste sábado. (…) Da resfrega resultou um morto [não confirmado] alguns feridos e vários detidos.

An unknown certain [sic] number of officers of the National Police, halted in extremis the march of about three hundred protesters who intended to go in the direction of the Presidential Palace of the Cidade Alta, after having protested in Independence Square on this Saturday morning (…) The result of the turmoil was one dead [not confirmed] and some wounded and a number of arrested.

In a press conference, the youth of the Revolutionary Movement clarified that the protest was peaceful and that the authorities knew it would occur. Only after the unjustified detention of one of the protesters, which occurred during a police intervention, was the protest moved towards the Presidential Palace [pt]:

The human rights organisation Human Rights Watch reacted swiftly in relation to the violent events of September 3, appealing to the government to not make use of “unnecessary force against protesters”.

Also the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned “the use of violence and intimidation by security forces to prevent journalists from covering protests against the government”, namely aggression against one of the journalists of the local branch of Voice of America, which put out its own press release republished on the blog  Universal [pt].

The “Tragicomedy” of prison sentences

Manifestantes enfrentam polícia em Luanda. Screenshot de video de ekuikui partilhado no blog Angola Resistente.

Protesters face police in Luanda. Screenshot of a video by ekuikui shared on the blog Angola Resistente.

In light of new developments, the about 21 protesters who were detained were taken to court, of whom 18 were accused [pt] of assault and battery and sentenced to between 45 days and 3 months of prison, as was reported by Human Rights Watch which has called for the release of the unjustly convicted protesters.

In contrast to what might be assumed, the prosecutor did not formally inform the defence counsel of the charges to be brought against their clients until the first hearing which occurred on September 6, the eve of the beginning of the trial [pt].

The defence counsel has already appealed the decision [pt] of the judge, which they consider a “tragicomedy”, as they are “policies without any legal basis”.

The blog Quintas de Debate features an appeal [pt] by the “Organisations of Civil Society Defending Human Rights and supporting the position on aggression and detention of protesters on the 3rd of September” that:

constataram com preocupação o estado degradante e desumano em que se apresentaram em tribunal alguns dos detidos da manifestação de 3 de setembro, que mostravam sinais visíveis da tortura de que foram vítimas.

noted with worry the degrading and inhuman state in which some of the protesters detained at the protest on September 3 appeared in court, showing visible signs of the torture that they suffered.

In spite of these events which reveal again the fragility of freedom of expression in Angola, in recent days the country was commented on in the blogosphere and made it to the world's trending topics on Twitter for another reason: the designation of Angolan Leila Lopes as Miss Universe. In an article published on the site Club-K the singer Aline Frazão comments [pt]:

Indigno-me ao ver mulheres angolanas a dizer que “estamos todas de parabéns pelo feito de Leila Lopes”, esquecendo os feitos de Ermelinda, Diana e Elsa, por exemplo, mulheres que arriscaram a sua vida para gritar pelos direitos básicos de 16 milhões de angolanos e angolanas.

I am indignant seeing Angolan women saying that “we should all be congratulated for the feat of Leila Lopes”, forgeting the feats of Ermelinda, Diana and Elsa, for example, women who risked their lives to cry out for basic rights of 16 million Angolans.

Frazão refers to some women leaders of the protest of September 3 that “also went out on the streets to cry for ‘freedom’ and to demand a fairer Angola”.  In spite of the celebrations, Gil Lopes of the blog Universal, asks [pt]:

poderá ser uma manobra de diversão internacional para silenciar/esquecer a morte da liberdade e da democracia em Angola?

could this be an international manoeuvre to silence / forget the death of liberty and democracy in Angola?

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