By Alexandre Neto:
Seven helicopters and an apparatus of more than 500 men, including military personnel, police and security forces, took part in a military-styled operation that forcibly evicted over 5,000 people from the residential neighbourhood of Mayombe, in the Cacuaco municipality, in Luanda, on February 1.
According to local residents, the joint military and police forces took the community by surprise at early dawn, causing widespread panic. “At around 5 A.M. the bulldozers started razing the houses to the ground, evicting more than 5,000 people”, said Mateus Virgílio Mukito, one of the residents left homeless.
Pedro Sebastião, another evictee, told Maka Angola that two children died in the operation. “They were running from the helicopters and ended up falling into a drainage ditch.” This information was corroborated by other residents. According to Mr. Sebastião, given the level of panic within the community, it wasn’t even possible to hold funerals in the area. “The bodies were recovered by the fire brigade and taken to a funeral home, where the families went to get them back, and the wakes were held elsewhere in Luanda,” he said.
The resident Paulo Miranda told Maka Angola that “the helicopters were flying very close to the ground.”
The mass forced evictions continued the next day, overseen by a reduced security force, which included two helicopters, 15 police vans, eight vehicles from the Rapid Intervention Police and four vehicles from the Angolan Armed Forces.
“This amounts to State terrorism. They evict people inhumanely, because the people in power want to sell the land to millionaires and foreigners,” complained Mateus Virgílio Mukito, another resident who lost his home and belongings.
Mayombe is now a scene of utter devastation. Hundreds of residents wander amidst the rubble that was once their home.
Several residents agreed to be taken in to Kaope-Funda, a bare area without any dwellings or infra-structures, only characterized by trenches and uneven ground.
Over the last few days the authorities have abandoned thousands of evictees of Mayombe in this area, thereby creating conditions for a possible humanitarian disaster.
Teresa Paulina was lying in the rubble, with only a piece of sheet-metal to shade herself and her new-born baby from the sun. She had given birth right there. She could find no words to describe her situation. The only thing she could say was her name. Residents indicated that two more births took place during the forced evictions operation, with the authorities showing absolutely no compassion or concern in evacuating the mothers in childbirth or giving them any assistance.
Rafael Morais, head of the NGO SOS Habitat, who went to the scene, spoke to the Cacuaco municipality administrator, Rosa Janota Dias dos Santos, about the mass forced evictions. “She [the administrator] responded arrogantly, stating that ‘if SOS Habitat brought houses to be distributed, then we [the government] are available to help with their distribution’. If I just came to ask questions, then I should let the government organise the population”, he said.
Maka Angola was unsuccessful in its attempt to speak to local authorities on the matter.