Angolan veterans protest over subsidies

2012-06-21 12:44
Angolan troops. (AFP, File picture)

Angolan troops. (AFP, File picture)

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Luanda - Angolan police on Wednesday fired gunshots in the air and used teargas to disperse hundreds of civil war veterans who staged a second protest rally in under two weeks to demand payment of overdue subsidies, Portuguese state news agency Lusa reported.

The veterans gathered at Maianga Square in the centre of Luanda, but were dispersed by police as they tried to march towards the "Cidade Alta," a heavily policed area where the presidency and the defence ministry are based, Lusa said.

The agency cited an unnamed former soldier as saying there had been no reports of injuries. It added that a second attempt by the protesters to reach the defence ministry was also blocked.

The US embassy in Luanda said in an email to US citizens obtained by Reuters that there had been reports of demonstrations in other areas of the city, including Miramar, where the embassy is located.

It urged US citizens to avoid the areas affected and maintain "a high level of vigilance as even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable".

A first protest staged on June 8 had also been blocked by riot and military police, but that time without any reports of firearms or teargas being used.

Payments

The rally had led the ministry of defence to promise it would pay the overdue subsidies as swiftly as possible and urge the veterans to remain calm as the payments are processed.

The veterans, who took part in Angola's civil war that ended a decade ago, had previously sent delegations to parliament to present their claims to lawmakers. Many have never received military pensions or disability subsidies, while others have complained about frequent delays in receiving the funds.

Shortly after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola's liberation factions fell into war. The country turned into a Cold War battleground that pitted the Russian- and Cuban-backed MPLA against Unita, supported by apartheid South Africa and the United States.

The conflict lasted 27 years, killing an estimated half a million people and leaving the country riddled with minefields.

President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, whose MPLA won the war, has been long criticised for doing too little to fight poverty in Africa's second-largest oil-producing state after Nigeria.

Dos Santos, who has been in power for 32 years, has faced unprecedented protest since the start of last year, with a burgeoning youth movement staging several rallies calling for him to step down.

The MPLA said last week Dos Santos will lead the party in an August 31 election to select lawmakers and a president.

Read more on:    jose eduardo dos santos  |  angola  |  southern africa
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