Angola police fire teargas to quash anti-govt protests

·3 min read
Protesters set up barricades along the roads using skips, boulders and burning tyres, while others set a national flag ablaze
Protesters set up barricades along the roads using skips, boulders and burning tyres, while others set a national flag ablaze

Angolan anti-riot police, some mounted on horseback, fired teargas and beat up protesters as dozens took to the streets of the capital Luanda in anti-government demonstrations on Saturday.

Protesters set up barricades along the roads using skips, boulders and burning tyres, while others set a national flag ablaze, an AFP photographer saw.

The demonstrators also set fire to a  police station in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the oceanside capital Luanda, a police source said.

The source who asked not to be identified told AFP that the demonstration -- demanding the holding of local government elections -- "resulted in barricades and acts of vandalism".

Municipal elections which had been scheduled for this year, have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Those were acts of rioting, in a flagrant violation of (new pandemic restrictions), which do not allow street gatherings of more than five people," he said.

"People must also listen to the voice of those who govern."

Starting Friday night, government announced new restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as the country saw a 30 percent surge in Covid-19 cases over the past two weeks.

By Saturday at least 8,829 coronavirus positive cases had been detected with 265 of them fatal.

The police source said some of his colleagues had also been assaulted and wounded during the violent protests.

Some journalists were also assaulted, briefly detained and some forced to delete footage of the protests from their cameras, witnesses said.

Civil society groups called the protests which were also staged to demand jobs and better living conditions.

The main opposition Unita, which endorsed the protests, said their provincial secretary in Luanda, Manuel Ekuikui, was attacked by police.

"The behaviour exhibited by the regime clearly shows that Angola is in a state that is neither democratic nor based on the rule of law," Unita spokesman Marcial Dachala told AFP.

He said the demands for an election date, calls for improved living standards and an update on the fight against corruption "should never be met with tear gas, live bullets".

There were unconfirmed reports that one person was shot dead during the protests.

Police did not respond to calls for comment.

Soldiers carrying assault rifles were also spotted during the protests that took place near Santa Ana cemetery.

Saturday'a protests were the latest show of disenchantment towards the government by Angolans in recent months.  

Public protests were relatively rare in Angola and were often targeted by security forces during the reign of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in 2017. 

But under President Joao Lourenco, they are becoming frequent.

Early this month Angolans marched against alleged state corruption.

Last month hundreds marched in Luanda to protest against police brutality after a doctor caught breaching anti-coronavirus rules, died in custody.

In August a few hundred demonstrators rallied against unemployment and the government's failure to create the 500,000 new jobs it had promised.

str-nm-sn/har