Angolan authorities deployed anti-riot police, helicopters and water cannon on Wednesday to block hundreds of opposition members from marching to the funeral of an activist shot dead by security forces at the weekend.
Manuel Ganga, a member of Angola’s second-biggest opposition party, CASA-CE, was killed after being detained for putting up posters about the kidnap and suspected murder of two activists in May 2012. Police said Ganga had tried to flee.
The killing came just hours before police used teargas to disperse the biggest demonstration against long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos since the end of a civil war in 2002 in Africa’s second-biggest oil producer.
“There was total intolerance. It is unacceptable, as we had yesterday coordinated with police that we would hold a peaceful funeral march, but it was the police who blocked us,” CASA-CE leader Abel Chivukuvuku told reporters.
Several hundred people started the march from central Luanda to the Santana cemetery a few kilometers away, wearing T-shirts printed with a photograph of the victim and the slogan “We demand justice”.
They soon came across the police road-block, resulting in a tense standoff for an hour before marchers got on to buses to proceed to the cemetery.
The funeral passed off largely without incident, although a television crew from the state-owned TPA station, widely seen as a dos Santos propaganda machine, was forced to leave when dozens of people started shouting “TPA out, TPA out”.
Opposition parties and international rights groups have long accused Dos Santos of suppressing rights and using violence to block dissent during his 34 years in power, but analysts say Saturday’s events could yet cause him problems.
UNITA and CASA-CE said on Tuesday they planned to step up street protests as the only way to loosen Dos Santos’ tight grip on the country of 18 million.