Angolan military police have quietly detained 51 war veterans, following demonstrations on June 21. The detainees are in the Military Judicial Police (PJM) garrison in Luanda.
Gonçalves Alberto, 46, told Maka Angola that the police had arrested the men at the Signals Regiment Headquarters, where they had gathered after being promised a solution to the problem of their unpaid pensions.
"My brother João Alberto, 44, was with me at the Signals. As there were many of us, I didn't notice he was missing. I only learnt from a text message that he was already detained in a police car with the others," Gonçalves Alberto said. "If we had been aware that our brothers were being captured in this treacherous manner we would have protested and we would all have ended up in prison."
The following day, June 21, Gonçalves Alberto visited his brother and his friends Francisco Manuela and Freitas Dias, as well as his former fellow soldiers, where they were being held at PJM. He took them water and food.
The Alberto brothers were recruited to the army in 1984. Gonçalves completed his military service in Cabinda as a radio operator for the Missiles Unit in the Air Force. João was in the Military Police at the Air Force Command in Luanda. Both were demobilised in 1992 following the Bicesse Peace Accords between the government and UNITA. Since then, they say they have received only a one-time payment of 55,000 kwanzas, equivalent to US $550.
Regarding the conditions in which they were detained, Gonçalves Alberto said only that the former soldiers were "in a supportive environment, from the police as well as from the military personnel, because they know they will end up like us, despised and left with nothing. The Military Police soldiers are doing their duty. They are under orders. We understand their situation," he said.
Ruben Catanha, 42, who was inside the Signals Regiment building, said the former soldiers were surrounded and told to form queues for their cases to be heard individually. "I was present there. I saw five people being detained when their cases were heard, on suspicion of never having been in the army," Ruben Catanha said.
"We couldn't do anything about it because we were surrounded and there were few of us. Most of our colleagues were outside," he said. Ruben Catanha was recruited when he was 16-years old and spent a further 16 years in the army, until 2002, at the Aerovia unit, a company that repaired runways for military use during the war.
Machado Domingos Diniz, a former guerrilla, said his cousin, Germano de Sousa José Soares, 37, had been detained the same night. "He was a sergeant in FALA [the now extinct armed forces of UNITA]. We were divided into five lines and there were five tables, with a colonel attending to us at each one, he said. A senior officer accompanied by a civilian asked his cousin to go with them, and only later did Machado Diniz learn that his cousin was detained at the Provincial Command of the National Police, along with an unknown number of others.
Meanwhile, new information has emerged confirming that the commander of the Luanda Military Region, general Joaquim Lopes Farrusco, was beaten during the demonstration at the Signals Regiment on June 20. At about 10 AM, the general, who was accompanied by a guard, addressed the former soldiers who were inside the premises. After an argument, the veterans disarmed the general's guard and punched and kicked the general, according to one of the veterans who was present. Soldiers from the unit came to the general's assistance, but only after he had been attacked.
"He annoyed us. We didn't want to speak to him. We were waiting for general Bento Kangamba who had promised to be there that day with a definitive solution to our case," said the veteran, who asked to remain anonymous. General Kangamba is currently the secretary for peri-urban and rural mobilisation of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Luanda.
A source at the Military Judicial Police confirmed the detentions but refused to disclose any further details.