Violence hits run-up to Angolan poll

THE campaign for the first elections in Angola, to be held on 29-30 September, is a lesson in surrealism, as well as being, at times, a very hazardous affair. Perhaps that is not surprising after a 16-year civil war which pitted foreign troops and arms from such powerful enemies as South Africa and the United States and Cuba and the former Soviet Union in Africa's biggest proxy war.

Yet so polarised are the two main contestants - the ruling MPLA Party of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Jonas Savimbi's Unita Movement - that violence can boil to the surface at any time, as it did on Monday when Unita soldiers occupied the airport of the central highlands town of Kuito and refused to allow planes to leave or arrive, according to the Angolan news agency, Angop.

Three weeks ago soldiers of the two armies engaged in a four-hour firefight in the town after some MPLA militants killed a chicken in public. The Unita Party symbol is a rooster.

The two sides cannot agree on anything, even on the town's name. The MPLA calls it Kuito, the name the government gave it after independence from Portugal in 1975, while Unita insists on Bie, the name from colonial times.

The chants and slogans were almost identical as the candidats addressed the crowds at the weekend. But for all the similarities, the differences are also clear.

The MPLA supporters were largely from the town itself, with decent shoes and trousers, and Mr dos Santos addressed his rally in Portuguese. His speech centred on 'the secure future' that is the cornerstone of his campaign and, after repeated calls from the crowd, he promised to send more of the newly created anti-riot police - commonly known as the 'ninjas' - to maintain the peace.

In contrast, the Unita supporters were mainly from the surrounding rural areas, where ovimbundu, not Portuguese, is the common language. They were mostly barefoot. Mr Savimbi spoke, in ovimbundu, of change, and railed against a threat allegedly posed by the 'ninja'.

Shortly after the rally, Mr Savimbi set the tone for the forthcoming elections in a short interview. 'If Unita does not win the elections, it has to be rigged,' he said. 'If they are rigged, I don't think we will accept them.'

By then feelings in the streets were running high. Over at the offices of the United Nations military force (Unaven), which is monitoring the 16-month-old ceasefire, MPLA and Unita supporters were battling over the fate of three Range Rovers flown in that day by the government.

But it was Unita's day, and Kuito was Bie as Unita militants burned the vehicles. 'It's like this all the time,' said one Unavem officer standing by helplessly. 'At the least sign of trouble, both sides are itching to pick up the guns and start it all again.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
football
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century