Angola’s president today announced national parliamentary elections for August 31, but a vicious attack on pro-democracy activists (left) by pro-government thugs suggests that the poll is unlikely to be free or fair.
“In 2010, Angola’s parliament changed the constitution so that parliament, not the people, would elect the president,” AP reports. “Critics had said giving parliament such power will only further entrench President Eduardo Dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979. Dos Santos says the method others in the region use to pick presidents is more efficient and less costly.”
Africa’s longest-serving ruler after Equatorial Guinea’s dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Dos Santos “has yet to disclose whether he will lead his party in the election, but is widely expected to do so after saying last year that he was ready for any mission which the party gave him,” Reuters reports. “His administration has long been accused of clamping down on dissent, disregarding human rights and doing little to fight widespread graft and poverty in Africa’s largest crude producer after Nigeria.”
A 15-strong pro-government militia gang has violently attacked young pro-democracy activists who coordinated protests against President José Eduardo dos Santos, writes Rafael Marques de Morais (right). The youths have held regular demonstrations since March 2011, protesting Dos Santos’ 32 year rule:
Shortly after 10pm on Tuesday night the attackers, armed with pistols, machetes and iron bars, burst into the home of rap artist Casimiro Carbono in Luanda’s Nelito Soares neighborhood, where ten youths had gathered.
With pistols in their hands, the attackers violently beat Gaspar Luamba, Américo Vaz, Mbanza Hamza, Tukayano Rosalino, Alexandre Dias dos Santos, Jang Nómada, Massilon Chindombe, Mabiala Kianda, and Jeremias Manuel Augusto “Explosivo Mental”. Their host, Casimiro Carbono, avoided the attacks as he had gone outside a few moments earlier to take a telephone call.
Afonso Mayanda, known as “Mbanza Hamza”, 26, said the attackers carried out the attacks in a quick and businesslike manner as soon as the door was opened. “They beat me with an iron rod on the head and all over my body, and pointed pistols at us so we wouldn’t resist the beating,” he said. Mbanza Hama needed 12 stitches in his head, and suffered fractures to his skull and right arm.
Gaspar Luamba was also severely beaten on the head with an iron rod, needing eight stitches, and his arms were broken. One of the pro-government thugs also struck Jang Nómada on the head with an iron bar, severely injuring him in addition to the beating he received to his entire body.
The rapper Jeremias Manuel Augusto “Explosivo Mental”, 25, tried to fight off the blows aimed at his head, and ended up with swollen arms, a broken finger on his right hand, and bruises all over his body. Massilon Chindombe, who tried to hide in the bedroom, said one of the attackers pointed a pistol at him when he was trying to close the door. “We said we were calling the police, and he laughed and replied ‘what police?’”. Chindombe said they took the wounded to the Américo Boavida Hospital after the attack. “Luamba and Mbanza Hamza had lost a lot of blood and were semi-conscious.
Eyewitnesses said that when the militias were leaving the scene of the crime they fired three shots to disperse the neighbors who had begun to gather in the street, and drove away in Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles allegedly belonging to National Police officers.
Since Monday, the demonstration organizers have had the use of a bi-weekly program on the opposition station Rádio Despertar, where they have tried to promote freedom of expression and to talk about the protests. Carbono Casimiro said the activists who were attacked this week had gathered in order to “devise new strategies for our radio programmed and we were also discussing other problems to do with internal organization and projects”. Rádio Despertar has been broadcasting since 2006 in accordance with the terms of the peace agreement that allowed the former rebel movement UNITA to transform its Voz do Galo Negro (Vorgan) radio station into a commercial broadcaster. It is permitted to broadcast only in Luanda on FM, and its distinctly anti-regime editorial line has served to increase its listenership.
TPA broadcasts are carefully screened by the government and the reading of a statement by an unknown group boasting of having committed a crime would in no circumstances have been allowed without the approval of the authorities. Pro-government extremists are drawing inspiration from Arab fundamentalist organizations to spread terror.