3 August 2012

Angola: Nation Set for Protests

Demonstrations planned for this August by opposition and veterans could turn violent.

War veterans are scheduled to hold a demonstration in Angola's Huila Province on August 3. Furthermore, the primary opposition party, Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), will also hold a demonstration in the town of Viana, located in the Luanda Province on the same day. Further details on the above-mentioned demonstrations are currently unavailable.

The demonstrations come ahead of scheduled parliamentary and presidential elections on August 31. Thus far, the run up to these elections has been marred by violence as political tensions and anti-government sentiment continues to escalate. Previously, on July 16, civil society activists called for the elections to be postponed citing irregularities; UNITA has further reiterated that if irregularities are not resolved by August 15, it will call for mass demonstrations in the country.

As is evident by the scheduled protests on August 3, discontent and anti-government sentiment has spread across various sectors of society, including war veterans, who previously demonstrated on June 7 and 20; the demonstrators demanded disability funds and a payment of salaries, currently in arrears. The veterans have also signalled their intent to disrupt electoral proceedings on August 31 and prevent voting from taking place if their grievances are not dealt with by the government.

Government crackdown

The most recent incident of unrest occurred when at least two people were killed and ten injured when an opposition gathering held in Benguela province turned violent on July 28. UNITA has alleged that the unrest occurred when the party refused to allow armed members of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party to join a meeting in the town of Kapupa, Benguela province. UNITA has since accused the MPLA of intimidating opposition members.

Furthermore, at least five people were injured and dozens more arrested in Luanda on July 14 when police dispersed a youth rally held by the United Youth Civil Society group in protest against incumbent president Jose Eduardo dos Santos' candidacy in the upcoming elections.

The government has reacted harshly to the majority of demonstrations by cracking down on dissidents and jailing a number of protesters and protest organisers. Tensions remain high in the country at this time and further protests during the election-campaigning period are expected. As a result, security at all events is likely to be significantly heightened. Given the willingness of security forces to respond harshly to protests, civil unrest at such events cannot be discounted.

Kim Moss is Africa analyst at red24, a crisis management assistance company providing guidance, assistance and response within crisis management, travel tracking, product recall, kidnap and ransom and travel security. Follow red24 on twitter @red24security.

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