Angola’s main opposition party, UNITA, accused the government of using violence to suppress a pro-democracy protest and called for the release of 24 youths arrested.
They were detained on Saturday at an anti-government demonstration in the capital Luanda in which several protesters, journalists and police officers were injured, according to media reports.
Political tension is rising in Angola ahead of elections planned for next year, and protesters on Saturday demanded the resignation of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has held power for 32 years in Africa’s biggest oil producer after Nigeria, Reuters reports.
“UNITA has concluded that the violent acts committed on Saturday against citizens exercising their rights, are a result of the brutal nature of the regime and a grave violation of the constitution,” the party said in a statement.
Organisers said the rally, which did not receive official support from any of the main opposition parties, had been authorised by the local government. Media reports said it attracted more than 200 youths.
Police and government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment on Monday.
UNITA lost a 27-year civil war against dos Santos’ MPLA party in 2002 and was then crushed in an election six years later, obtaining just 10 percent of the votes against its rival’s 82 percent.
Police and the army have so far prevented unhappy Angolans from organising mass rallies, but Saturday’s events suggest a small youth movement, inspired by uprisings in north Africa, is not cowed — and the government is ready to hit back.
Rights watchdogs are pushing for more transparency in the oil and media sectors, and tough action against corruption.
They are also demanding dos Santos do more to fight poverty in a country where two-thirds of the 16.5 million people live on less than $2 per day.