Angolan forces block war vets protest

Angolan soldiers and riot police on Wednesday deployed water cannon and dogs to block war veterans from protesting for pensions in the capital Luanda, the third such protest this month.

Security forces blocked roads in the central district of Maianga as the veterans of the war for independence and Angolan civil war marched to demand payment of their pensions and other social services.

Some veterans say they have never received any payment since the civil war ended a decade ago in this oil-rich country, which now has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

“This morning we gathered outside the headquarters of the Angolan armed forces because we had to get a reply to our demands,” protester Tomas Dala told AFP.

“Since no one came to talk to us, we started moving to the defence ministry and presidential palace to get an answer,” he said.

But security forces blocked their way and quickly broke up the protest.

Public shows of dissent are rare in this tightly controlled country, ruled by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos for more than three decades. He is seeking another term in office in elections set for August 31, which will be only the third in the country’s history.

Angola’s war veterans fought for independence from Portugal from 1961 to 1975, then battled each other in a civil war that lasted until 2002.

When the protests started, the defence ministry called for calm and promised to pay each veteran 50,000 kwanzas ($500, 400 euros) a month.

The vets rejected the offer, saying it was too little in the second-most expensive city in the world.

While top-level military service is often a stepping stone to the upper echelons of political power, most veterans live in desperate poverty, like the majority of Angolans.

The country’s oil boom has created a staggering wealth gap that has triggered small but persistent protests against Dos Santos, whose family is connected to a vast business empire.

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