THE bloody incident that occurred at the diamond mining town of Cafunfu in the northern Lunda Norte province of Angola on the 30th of January has attracted international attention.
The United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) are demanding a satisfactory explanation about the massacre from the Angolan Government.
The Portuguese news agency, Lusa quoted the UN’s resident coordinator in Luanda, Zahira Virani, as having appealed for dialogue between antagonists and saying that the UN is paying close attention to the situation because it involves large scale loss of human lives that can endanger democratic values and put at risk what the country has gained in terms of defending human rights.
The Angolan authorities labelled the incident as an act of armed insurrection involving about 300 rebels that attacked a police station at around 4:00, but the organizers – the Lunda-Chokwe Protectorate Movement – speak of a premeditated massacre, by the police, of peaceful protesters.
A statement on the movement’s website says that there was no armed attack and no intention of attacking any police station.
According to the movement, their intent was a peaceful demonstration and all the relevant authorities, including the police, were properly notified.
They further explained that the demonstration started at 5:30 and not at 4:00 as alleged by the police.
“People also need to understand that here [in Lunda Norte], full daylight arrives before 5:30.”
The Lunda-Chokwe movement is demanding autonomy for a big chunk of eastern Angola based on a treaty signed in the 19th century by the Portuguese government and Chokwe chieftains.
They also allege systematic marginalization and extreme poverty even though the area is rich in diamonds and timber.
The number of the dead and the injured after the massacre is still uncertain.
The Angolan police said that six people were killed, five were injured and 16 arrested, but the organizers of the protest put the death toll at 25.
However, opposition parliamentarians who addressed a press conference in Luanda put the numbers at 23 dead, 21 injured, and 10 missing.
These numbers were revised a day later to 28 dead and 18 injured.
The European Union office in Luanda condemned the incident and demanding an urgent meeting with justice minister Francisco Queiroz who, earlier on, declared that the incident needs to be investigated because there were signs of human rights violations on both sides.
However, national police commander Paulo de Almeida who visited Cafunfu, a day after the incident, declared that no investigation will be conducted.
Meanwhile, five opposition UNITA parliamentarians who travelled to Cafunfu to conduct an investigation of their own were not allowed to enter the town. For three days they were detained by the police in the bush five kilometres from the town.
A team of four investigators of a Catholic-affiliated human rights body, who travelled to Cafunfu last week, were placed under house arrest immediately upon arriving at the local parish.
“By blocking investigations, by detaining investigators, the Angolan government is inadvertently pleaded guilty,” said UNITA in a statement.