Angolan President Joao Lourenco has reassured voters that elections scheduled for August will be safe, amid growing political unrest in Africa’s second-biggest oil producer.
The upcoming polls will take place in an environment of “full security for voters and election observers,” President Lourenco said. “Our police forces are up to the challenge and will guarantee order and security for citizens, institutions and property.”
The president’s statement came after taxi drivers blocked major intersections in Luanda on Monday to initially protest against COVID-19 restrictions but soon spread to include political grievances.
Video footage of the demonstrations showed hundreds of people walking along a main street in the capital city alongside a burning vehicle and 17 people were detained because of damage to property, including a ruling party building.
President Lourenco is seeking re-election in the August polls.
Angola’s three main opposition parties last year formed a coalition to field a single presidential candidate in the hope of unseating the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, which has been in power since the country gained Independence from Portugal in 1975.
On Monday, Angolan taxi drivers blocked major intersections in Luanda.
Luanda police spokesman Nestor Goubel said 17 people were detained because of damage to property, including a ruling party building.
“Groups of individuals moved by unknown reasons erected barricades, intimidated people and carried out acts of vandalism, burning tires,” Goubel said. “They torched a bus and have ransacked a local MPLA office.”
The strike, which left thousands of Angolans stranded, was organised to protest against a rule that limited the loading capacity of the blue-and-white minivan taxis at 50 percent.
While the government revoked the restriction last week, several taxi drivers’ associations decided to go ahead with the protest. Complaints include daily police harassment and bad road conditions and the need for the government to professionalise taxi driving, according to the New Alliance of Taxi Drivers Association of Angola.
ANATA has nothing to do with the “acts of vandalism allegedly carried out by individuals that aim to tarnish the good name of the associations that have called for the strike,” the association said in a statement. – Bloomberg