‘Arab’ spring in Angola? Police respond with arrests and violence

For a while we were wondering which Sub-Saharan countries would follow after the Arab Spring civil uprisings changed the political map of northern Africa, but exactly one year after the Egyptian revolution started and three months after Gaddafi got killed, there were few signs that any of the revolutionary spirit had trickled down across the desert.

Then earlier this week we got an update from Amadou (Africulturban) about the situation in Dakar, Senegal where youth protest against the ruling elite was met with violence, followed two days later by a call from Angola with an urgent request to discuss the events that followed a peaceful protest by a group of youth including hip hop activists in the streets of Luanda.

Earlier today, our correspondent and AHH Radio presenter in Luanda, Cavera Faztudo, sent a note explaining what happened on Friday February 3:

“This morning at Cacuaco District a demonstration attempt was brutally shut down by the Angolan police. Any group of two youngsters standing or walking together are being violently approached and beaten by the use of police batons. They are immediately taken to police precincts and held there without being told what law or crime they have inflicted. There are reports of at least and for the time being five arrests, one missing and one critically injured in hospital.”

We got to ask Cavera a few quick questions via chat before he had to leave again to follow up on his arrested brothers.

Who had been protesting?
Residents of the Cacuaco District, one of the 9 districts of Luanda. It is a nameless social movement, formed mainly by young people clearly influenced by the conscious hip hop generation. Several of them are rappers.

What were they protesting against?
This time, they are complaining for their basic needs (electricity and water) which they have been deprived of for ten years!
They took it to the streets last week, and eight of them ended up getting convicted to 90 days of jail time. So they were now pushing the enveloppe further and demanding immediate release of their unfairly convicted brothers.

How has the government reacted in the past to demonstrations?

Always in a very repressive nature… Here are some links for Youtube videos so you can see for yourself (here, here and here). Anti-government protests were extremely rare until March last year after the Arab spring’s winds blew southwards. Several demonstrations took place last year and dissent just started erupting from different walks of society.

What about youth movements in other parts of Africa such as ‘Y’en a marre‘ in Senegal, do you get to hear anything about them?
Very little. Only people who have interest in that subject matter AND have access to alternative media know about these movements. We have published in our website a few videos of their actions.

What was the situation like this morning?
They didn’t even allow people to gather around at the convened spot. As soon as they saw a group as little as two people they harrassed them and brutally beat them and took them to police precinct nearby.

What do you think will happen to those who were caught?
In the dictatorial regime you never know what will happen, that’s why we are asking for help, the more support we can get the better.

And what can people outside to do help?
For now… Spread the word as far as they can!

More insights from Cavera and friends on the Centralangola7311 website. Then have a look at the latest video by Tribo Sul, Cavera’s crew. Titled ‘Marxa’ (march), you don’t even have to understand the Portuguese lyrics to know what they talk about, just watch. Finally, check out Zwela, Angola’s first hip hop magazine of which Cavera is the editor, the mag can be downloaded as a free PDF from Zwelamag.com.

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