How is it possible that people who cannot manage even the most basic protest, without being violently clamped down and detained, could have the means to organise a coup d’état? This is a pertinent question sent in by a reader of my website, Maka Angola, following the detention of 15 activists in Angola in late June.
The young people had formed a study group. They armed themselves with books on peaceful forms of protest in order better to defend their ideas. This posed an even greater threat to those in power who, according to various analysts, are more afraid of freedom of thought than of guns.
On Wednesday 24 June, the attorney general, Army General João Maria de Sousa, confirmed the detention of 15 youths for allegedly preparing acts of collective disobedience to overthrow the government, and unseat President Dos Santos. “These acts constitute crimes against the security of the state, as a crime of rebellion. As such, the competent bodies of the state must take action to avert the worst,” General João Maria de Sousa told the press.
The group were reading the famous book by US academic Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. The book’s blurb describes it as “a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive regimes.” The youth were reportedly brainstorming peaceful strategies to protest against the rule of Dos Santos.
Maka Angola has decided to find out about these 15 people jailed as “coup plotters”, and has compiled profiles of each one on the site. An extract follows here.
Inocêncio António de Brito “Drux”
Age: 28 years
Occupation: Student and head of Scout group at a Catholic church
“My son only knows how to manipulate a pen, he does not know how to handle a gun. Will he be able to make a coup with a pen?” wonders Marta Mulay, the mother of Inocêncio de Brito.
She says the arrest of her son “is an injustice. He is innocent of everything that he is accused of. Inocêncio disagrees with the president’s governance. He just simply wants to help to open the minds of the people because the country is in bad shape. As a family, we demand his immediate release”.
In turn, his sister, Marcelina de Brito, told us how he was taken back to his home after being arrested at the meeting. She says the police shoved a black bag over his head so that he could not see where he was being taken. She confirmed that the police seized his computer, telephone and all his books and university notebooks.
Occupation: Primary school teacher
Since 2011, Mbanza Hamza has been one of the main victims of the brutality inflicted by the police and security forces on the youth movement that has protested against the regime of President dos Santos. In 2012, MPLA-controlled militias broke his skull and collarbone during a raid on a house where youths were meeting to plan a demonstration.
Mbanza lives with his two children in his mother’s house. His mother, Leonor Odete João, has no fear about expressing her disgust at her son’s detention. “My son’s strength is his conscience. The books he reads are what’s scaring the president …The danger here is studying, it’s what my son is learning. He has freedom of conscience and freedom of choice.”
She added: “Since my son was arrested I haven’t been eating, just weeping.”
She condemns the way in which police from the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) arrived at her house without a warrant for the searches and arrests they carried out. “They took my computer, they took my phone and my younger son’s. They even took my women’s magazines and newspapers that I have kept. They took all the papers they could find.”
José Gomes Hata “Cheik Hata”
Age: 29 years
Occupation: Hip-hop artist
Cheik Hata is one of the promoters, with Hitler Samusuku, of the hip-hop group Third Division. His lyrics are considered to be revolutionary. The verses are about rebellion – rebellion of the youngsters who feel robbed, oppressed and betrayed – and they speak about the reality of life in Angola, bluntly and without any fear.
“Wake up, let’s do it/Negative thoughts, devilish acts/results in violations, corruption and murder/in general, men possessed without mercy/More percentage to Zé (…)/”, sings the rapper in the music track “Half man, half animal”, from the record Project Does Not Vote.
Domingos da Cruz
Age: 31 years
Occupation: Professor at the Independent University of Angola
Because of his intellectual role and as the main speaker during debates of new forms of peaceful activism, the authorities consider Domingos da Cruz as one of the “ringleaders” of the alleged coup-plotting. He is the author of the book Tools to Destruct the Dictator and Prevent New Dictatorship: Political Philosophy to the Liberation of Angola. The work has been used as a manual in the young people’s meetings and may be considered an adaptation of the activist model propagated by the US academic Gene Sharp, in his book From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. This book has been internationally used as an instruction manual for non-violent strategies against dictatorships.
However, the contents of Domingos da Cruz book is not as bombastic as the title suggests. In general, the 184-page work defends non-violent struggle, including civil disobedience, as the best way for Angolans to achieve their freedom and implement true democracy. The author is against the use of violence and insists on safeguarding human lives. On the possibility of a coup, for example, to overthrow the dictatorship, for example, Da Cruz argues that coups represent a setback in the process of change and tend to give rise to a new dictatorship. He does not promote the idea of change based on external support. He is against it.
To pursue Da Cruz, the judicial bodies are clinging to the title of his works.
According to his sister, four police agents, last Sunday 21 June 2015 ransacked Da Cruz’s house, “including the bathroom and water buckets”. They took everything that was written on paper.
The other detainees include: Hitler Jessia Chiconda “Samusuku”, a student and hip-hop artist; Osvaldo Caholo, a lieutenant in the National Air Force and assistant teacher of African history; Nelson Dibango, a computer technician; Albano Evaristo Bingobingo “Albano Liberdade”, a driver; Arante Kivuvu, a student; Manuel Baptista Chivonde Nito Alves, a student; Luaty “Ikonoklasta” Beirão, a rapper; Sedrick de Carvalho, journalist; Fernando Tomás “Nicola Radical”, technician; Nuno Álvaro Dala, university lecturer; and Benedito Jeremias, a student.
You can read their full profiles on Maka Angola.
Rafael Marques de Marques is a 2015 winner of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for his investigative reporting. He is currently appealing a six-month suspended sentence received following a defamation case over his book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.
Above: Music by Angolan rapper Luaty “Ikonoklasta” Beirão, one of the detainees