Fuel price increase leads to demonstrations and deaths in Angola

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads, ‘The people are not slaves’ in Luanda, Angola. Photo edited by Luaty Beirão, used with permission.

On June 1, the government of Angola, through the minister of state for economic coordination, Manuel Nunes Júnior, declared an increase in fuel prices in the country, following the government's announcement of the gradual withdrawal of gasoline subsidies.

Thus, prices go from the previous 160 kwanzas to 300 kwanzas per litre (from USD 0.26 to USD 0.49), with the subsidy maintained for the agriculture and fishing sectors. Subsidies for other products such as diesel, cooking gas and lighting oil remain unchanged until the end of this year.

According to the Minister, the tariffs for taxi drivers and motorcycle taxi drivers will be subsidized, and they will continue to pay 160 kwanzas per litre of gasoline, with the State covering the difference, for an unspecified time. However, this subsidy does not cover all taxi drivers, so the day after the inception of the new prices, several cities in Angola woke up to demonstrations.

In reaction, there were reports of acts of violence carried out by the police against the demonstrators, mostly taxi drivers. One of the news reports even gave accounts of deaths caused by live bullets fired by the country's security forces. Mwene Vunongue, a social activist who has been following the situation in Angola tweeted about the situation:

The strike of taxi drivers and motorcycle taxi drivers rose in Lubango.

Remember that yesterday there was a demonstration in Huambo, where the police killed 5 people.

The rise in the price of gasoline and the non-assignment of a taxi driver's card is the central issue. pic.twitter.com/VQDc257dUn

— Mwene Vunongue (@Dasmangas) June 6, 2023

There were other reports about the demonstrations, including from journalist and Human Rights Watch senior researcher, Zenaida Machado:

Angolan police fatally shoot against protest over fuel prices. Government should properly investigate and prosecute the deaths, with a view to introducing measures to instill respect for human rights in the security forces. https://t.co/r3LOiWPs1G

— Zenaida Machado (@zenaidamz) June 6, 2023

Human rights activist, Luaty Beirão, displayed a poster that accused the country's ruling party, MPLA, of being the main driver of the indignation felt in the country:

How deep is the “hole” in @sonangoloficial ??? @crosado, who analyzes all published numbers, said on the radio that it is impossible to know. #pacitycase pic.twitter.com/kDOHtEzdmL

— Luaty Beirão (@LuatyBeirao) June 5, 2023

Other citizens denounced the use of live bullets, which is a recurring practice of the Angolan police during demonstrations, as was noted on Twitter:

It has a name: State Terrorism. Just the fact that they advance, ostensibly, with the gun in hand and firing, without backfiring, is already something that goes beyond the red lines of any police force. The big problem is when these “terrorists” are also caught in an alley.

— Pierrot le Fou (@janelaberta_AO) June 6, 2023

However, it is recognised that popular indignation is not new, given the repressive police reactions in Angola, says Zenaida Machado:

On June 17, Angolans protested again, and just as before, the police used force and violence to prevent the march from continuing.

Without any reason, the police decided to repress a demonstration that was taking place without any kind of shock or incident. The rational person wonders why, but this goes beyond the logic of the democratic mind.#benguela#manif17jun pic.twitter.com/soVWisvIP4

— Civic Movement (@MovCivicoMudei) June 17, 2023

Ridiculous, pathetic #manif17jun https://t.co/xwn4XLx2NS

— Luaty Beirão (@LuatyBeirao) June 17, 2023

The Angolan police admitted having used force against demonstrators in the provinces of Luanda and Benguela which they sought to justify by saying this was due to non-compliance with the routes established by the authorities. However, organizers denied these allegations and accused the police of shooting at unarmed people.

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