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Angolans furious after protesters killed in rally by self-determination movement

Video of the murdered demonstrators | Record TV Africa (screenshot 1 February)

Up to 16 people could have died during a demonstration that was heavily suppressed by Angolan police in the mining village of Canfunfo on January 30, in an episode that activists and religious leaders have called “a massacre.”

Attended by about 200 people according to various local media, the demonstration was called by the Movement for the Protectorate of Lunda Tchokwe (MPPLT), an organization founded in 2006 that advocates for the autonomy of the eastern half of Angola's territory, which is rich in diamonds.

To justify the claim, the organization refers to a treaty signed between the local chiefs and Portugal in 1885 which, according to the movement, made the area a protectorate. The movement argues that the treaty was ignored during Angola's independence negotiations in 1975.

The demonstration on January 30 was a commemoration of the 127th anniversary of the “international recognition of the right of the Lunda Tchowke kingdom,” according to a statement posted on the movement's Facebook page.

The authorities dispatched military and police to the village on the day of the rally which, witnesses told the press, took a “war-like atmosphere.” The videos below contain some footage:

MORTES EM CAFUNFODeclarações exclusivas sobre os acontecimentos na Lunda Norte.O que vocês tem a dizer sobre isso❓

Posted by Record TV Africa on Monday, February 1, 2021

REPORTAGEM DA AGÊNCIA LUSA NO CAFUNFO, LUNDA NORTE, SOBRE OS INCIDENTES DO DIA 31 DE JANEIRO DE 2021

Posted by UNITA Bruxelas on Friday, February 5, 2021

Speaking with Global Voices by telephone, MPPLT President José Mateus Zecamutchima denied the police's version of the events which claims the protesters tried to storm a police station. Mutchima said the police fired indiscriminately in the direction of the protest.

He also denies that the protesters were armed, and says that days earlier the police had carried out arrests “with the aim of halting the demonstration,” he added.

Zecamutchima was arrested on February 9, a few days after the conversation with Global Voices.

On February 3, police commander Paulo Gaspar de Almeida told the press that “there is no territory under the sovereignty of another country” and that the movement had committed an “act of banditry.”

The MPPLT has a Facebook page and a blog with posts rejecting recourses to arms or violence.

The movement has long been targeted by the Angolan authorities. In 2017, Zecamutchima and about 80 people were arrested in another demonstration.

Another post by the MPPLT claims that more than 300 of its activists are in jail, “some tried and convicted, others not even that”, according to an excerpt reproduced by Renaissance news website.

Reactions

According to Público, the opposition party CASA-CE party expressed concern over videos of the demonstration showing police violence.

The Democratic Bloc, another opposition party, called the police crackdown an “act that shocks the national conscience.”

Together with UNITA, the opposition formally demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the incidents.

The Catholic Church also condemned the episode. Bishop Belmiro Chissenguete, of the Diocese of Cabinda, which is another region with separatist movements, said that the events of Canfunf0 took place due to a lack of dialogue, and called for an independent investigation to establish the facts:

Lançamos um apelo a todos que têm responsabilidade no País, que tenham coragem em fazer uma investigação independente, não só aquela que a nossa polícia vai fazer, o próprio parlamento tem que se mexer, organizações não-governamentais e outras instituições. Pelas imagens que recebemos aquilo parecia ser um campo de batalha.

We appeal to all who have responsibility in the country to have the courage to do an independent investigation, not only the one that our police will do, but also Parliament has to get moving, (as well as) non-governmental organizations and other institutions. From the images we've received, it looked like a battlefield.

Using the hashtag #LundaNorte, some Angolans demanded justice from abroad:

🇦🇴 🇦🇴 #LundaNorte #Angola #Assassinos FRANÇA!!✊🏾A partir da França,manifestação a solo,do nosso mano…

Posted by Gisela Silva on Sunday, January 31, 2021

Accusations against the ruling party also spread on social networks. A citizen named Hamilton posted on his Facebook page:

É uma grande vergonha em Angola ainda existir jovens que lutam em prol de um partido político que muito nos causou malefícios.
Pelo que houve lá nas terras da #LUNDANORTE é um acto que os tais que dizem a vida humana importa tinham de intervir nessa pobre governação falhada que nada faz em prol do próprio cidadão.

It is a great shame for Angola that there are still young people who fight for a political party that has caused us so much harm.

What happened in #LUNDANORTE had to be stopped by those who say human life matters. This poor failed government does nothing for the benefit of its citizens.

Journalist Nok Nogueira called for the resignation of the police commander-general:

Demita-se, senhor comandante-geral da Polícia Nacional. O senhor mente com todos os dentes. Não vi nada do que o senhor afirmou nesta conferência de imprensa nos vídeos que chegaram.

E a única pessoa que está a politizar este episódio é o senhor, quando diz que eles quiseram atacar o poder instituído.

Resign, Mr. commander-general of the National Police. You lie through your teeth. I didn't see anything you said at this press conference on the videos that came in.

And the only person who is politicising this episode is you, when you say that [people] wanted to attack the ruling power.

On February 3, the Minister of Justice admitted that violations of human rights happened during the rally.

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