Angolan gangs go after Chinese

2009-11-13 20:06

Luanda - Armed Angolan gangs are targeting Chinese workers in "mafia-style" attacks, creating a climate of fear among the Chinese community in Luanda, a construction boss told AFP on Friday.

A string of gang robberies has targeted Chinese companies and housing compounds in recent months, said Eddie Zhang, head of Shanghai Urban Construction Group, the company building Luanda's new football stadium for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN).

"These are not just normal robberies...They are planned, like mafia-style attacks. The gangs go first to inspect premises and then they go back with AK-47s."

Important project for Angola

Zhang said his staff had not had any problems but he had warned his workers to take extra care.

"We have a lot of security at the site and also I think that Angolans know how important this project is for the country.

"But elsewhere things are getting bad and people are talking about wanting to go back home," he said.

He added that the Chinese embassy had advised nationals against going out alone at night.

More than 40 000 Chinese workers are employed in Angola, around 90% on construction sites.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Luanda said that they were aware of incidents against Chinese nationals and were working with Angolan authorities to resolve the problem.

Xu Ning, the head of the Chinese Business Council in Luanda, said Chinese living in Angola were increasingly afraid.

Key reconstruction projects

"Things have got worse in the last few months. Just last night someone I was due to have dinner with did not turn up because he had been robbed," he told AFP.

"And last week a man was shot dead in Viana. He had been working here for a year and was due to leave, so had all his year's salary in his rucksack when he was approached by an armed gang," Ning said.

"He fought back so they shot him, first in the foot, and when he fought more, they shot him twice in the stomach. He went to hospital and then died. They took all his money."

Chinese companies have several key post-war reconstruction contracts in the southern African country, including new roads, airports, and government buildings, as well as four CAN 2010 stadiums. Chinese credit lines to Angola are believed to exceed $5bn.

"This county has a lot of future but people won't stay to work here if they're afraid," said Ning, who has been in Angola for 11 years and represents 40 companies.
"We are hearing about two or three attacks a day. Some small companies have already gone back," he added.

"The police need to do something about this, if they don't, it will just encourage more gangs."