Angolan police target newspaper and 'break up demonstrations'

On 12 March 2012 Angolan police seized 20 computers from the offices of the publication 'Folha 8' and questioned its editor two days after attempts to stage demonstrations in the Luanda and Benguela were broken up by armed gangs and heavily armed police.

In Benguela heavily armed police broke up the crowds and made several arrests. In Luanda, where in the days running up to the planned demonstrations there had been reports of house raids and threats against the organisers, an unidentified armed gang launched a violent street attack on the organisers leaving several people seriously injured.

Angola's Policia Nacional blamed the violence on rival gangs and "hooligans", and a spokesman pledged a full investigation into what happened. A leaflet circulating in Luanda, claiming to be from a youth vigilante group, says it carried out the attack to stop the protests out of "respect for the elections" and to preserve the peace.

But Luaty Beirão, a popular Angolan rapper who helped organise the march in Luanda, and who was himself injured, said he and his friends had been deliberately targeted by a well-trained undercover security operation.

Filomeno Vieira Lopes, the Secretary General of a small opposition party Bloco Democratico was also attacked and had to be taken to hospital with a wounds to his head and arm.

Both Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa expressed concern regarding these events especially as they were occurring in an election year.

Angola's President Dos Santos has ruled for 32 years. In terms of a Constitutional amendment in 2010 there are no longer direct presidential elections and the majority party determines who is President. Dos Santos and his party, the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA), control 191 of 220 parliamentary seats in Angola. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 5 September 2012.

 

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