In brief

Police kill protesters, arrest leader of eastern Angola pro-sovereignty movement

José Mateus Zecamutchima blamed for rebellion, conspiracy · Group denies having weapons

José Mateus Zecamutchima.
José Mateus Zecamutchima. Author: MPPLT
Angolan police have arrested José Mateus Zecamutchima, leader of the Lunda Tchokwe Portuguese Protectorate Movement (MPPLT), whom the Angolan judiciary is blaming for the crimes of rebellion and conspiracy. The MPPLT was calling for a protest that, on 30 January, ended in a massacre of a still undetermined number of protesters by police officers.

As preparations for the demonstration were taking place in Cafunfu, a mining town in Lunda Norte province, Angolan police shot at those preparing themselves for the protest. According to the police version, those people were armed and sought to assault a police station. The MPPLT, witnesses, local activists, and opposition parties deny it, and say instead that the protesters were unarmed.

An investigation by opposition party UNITA says police killed 28 protesters and dumped most of their corpses into a nearby river and ravines, or buried them. The investigation reports that the protesters were fired workers from Angolan national diamond company Endiama, and notes that police chased and arrested people identified with the MPPLT. Police have admitted to killing several people. MPPLT says at least 16 were killed, while other organisations speak of some 10 people.

“We have neither weapons nor an army,” the MPPLT said in a statement released two days after the killings. The movement claims that all its demonstrations follow constitutional channels, and denies its actions can be described as an “armed rebellion,” as Angolan governing party MPLA has done.

The MPPLT is an organization founded in 2006 that demands self-government for the eastern half of Angola. The movement refers to this territory by the name of Lunda Tchokwe. According to its understanding, Lunda Tchokwe became a protectorate of Portugal at the end of the 19th century by virtue of the signing of several treaties between local kings and the European country. Thus, always according to the MPPLT, Lunda Tchokwe was never officially a part of the Angolan colony, and therefore its incorporation into this country is illegal.

It is not entirely clear what the MPPLT’s stance is on Lunda Tchokwe’s desirable relationship with Angola. Holding views close to the right of self-determination, the movement either advocates the constitution of an independent state or an agreement of autonomy.