Angola threatens jail for 51 over separatist march

Angola threatens jail for 51 over separatist march

Luanda: Angola has threatened to jail 51 people for up to six weeks over a protest by campaigners seeking independence for an eastern region of the oil-rich country, activists said on Wednesday.

Police fired on the thousand-strong march staged by the Lunda Chokwe Protectorate (LCP) movement on Saturday in the town of Cuango, 600 kilometres east of the capital Luanda, killing one and injuring 13 others.

Cuango is in the north of the vast region that separatists want to see independent which, according to some claims, comprises Angola’s entire eastern half.

The jail time can be avoided if those detained pay a fine.

“Fifty-one people … arrested last Saturday who were not with violent elements or armed with knives will each pay prosecution costs of between 2,000 and 20,000 Angolan kwanza (Dh440 or $120) or the group will be jailed for 45 days,” said a state prosecutor, according to LCP spokesman Alex Narciso.

A 35-year-old father of eight was killed when police opened fire on the marchers, the LCP said following the clashes, adding that another demonstrator was shot in the head and hospitalised.

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Police confirmed that a man died and 13 others were injured while officers took 51 people into custody after making 78 arrests.

Clashes related to the weekend violence were also reported in Saurimo, in the northeast of the Lunda-Norte province, 400 kilometres east of Cuango.

The LCP said it had written to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and local authorities notifying them of the march beforehand and vowed to hold further protests.

“The regime must stop shooting at people who march peacefully and are only exercising their rights,” said Jose Zecamutchima, president of the LCP movement.

Angolan authorities arrested five Lunda Chokwe activists in March 2016 on suspicion of attempting to murder a police officer. They remain in prison.

Police have been quick to clamp down on political gatherings in recent months ahead of legislative elections expected in August which will likely see a new president from the ruling party replace Dos Santos who will not contest the poll.

Dos Santos’s government has been criticised as secretive and corrupt, with authorities accused of crushing dissent.