The Angolan Constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, however on November 11 when protestors turned out en masse in Luanda, Angola’s capital, with demands such as free and fair municipal elections, a better quality of life, freedom of speech, protest the high cost of living, police turned on the crowd and dispersed it with tear gas and violence. One protestor, Inocêncio Alberto de Matos, was shot and died of his wounds, according to sources on the ground. His family has yet to see his body.
One protestor, Inocêncio Alberto de Matos, was shot and died of his wounds, according to sources on the ground.
The demonstration was called by young activists, including Luaty Beirao, who is part of the well-known Angolan activist group 15+2, members of which were jailed under the José Eduardo dos Santos regime for reading material about non-violent resistance to repressive regimes. The current president of Angola is Joao Jourenco.
According to Amnesty International, the Angolan government denied permission for the November 11 demonstration, citing in part COVID-19 concerns. Activists reported they were threatened with harm if they went ahead with their plans. The activists did go forward with the demonstrations, which were widely reported to be peaceful until the police moved in. Among those detained by the police are Luaty Beirao, Nelson Mucazo, Luís Paulo, Muana África and Léo. Two young people, Laurinda Gouveia and Nito Alves, are in the hospital. Alves was shot, but has not succumbed to his wounds.
“Past peaceful protests in Angola have been met with appalling brutality by the police, with demonstrators assaulted and arrested for no other reason than demanding accountability from the authorities. Amnesty will be monitoring the situation closely, and documenting any human rights violations. Staging a protest is not a crime,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa the day before the demonstration.
November 11 in Angola is Independence Day – usually a festive occasion that marks the country’s independence from former colonial power Portugal.
In an odd twist to the day’s events, at one point the police were overwhelmed by the tear gas they themselves had fired, and were helped by activists, who gave them water.
Approximately 2,500 Angolans live in Maine, many of whom arrived after fleeing persecution at home. The Angolan population in Maine grew during the summer of 2019, when many Angolan asylum seekers arrived in Maine from the southern border of the U.S., prompting Portland to set up the Expo Building as a makeshift shelter. The president of the Angolan Community of Maine is Nsiona Nguizani.