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Longer, analytical article.  Angola: Operation Kissonde:The diamonds of humiliation and misery.

Summary & Comment: Excerpts from another expose of the injustice of mining companies, government, police in Angola against small diamond-miners"grimpeiros" . With overall assessment and yet on-theground detail (over 50 case studies), Rafael Marques reveals the many atrocities, legal and illegal. Many are committed by company security agents with free reign from the law and the police. Conclusions and recommendations. This report is a follow-up to"Lundas: The Stones of Death (4 parts) www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=8216, also 8222,8223,8224. JK

Author: Rafael Marques Date Written: 8 July 2006
Primary Category: Resource Extraction Document Origin: NIZA
Secondary Category: Angola Source URL: http://www.cuango.net/kissonde/texto/indice_I.htm
Key Words: Angola, diamonds, Cuango, company police, torure, violence

Printable Version

Operation Kissonde:The diamonds of humiliation and misery.



Goals of the Report
Expected Outcomes
1 Executive Summary
2 The Government
3 The National Police
3.1 Improvements
3.2 Comparison
3.3 Conversations, Promises and Reality
3.4 The Bridge of Discord
3.5 The Subsidiaries of the National Police
3.6 Ping-pong
4 The Angolan Armed Forces
5 Sodiam and Ascorp: the head and tail of garimpo
5.1 Sodiam Sarl
5.2 Sodiam International
5.3 Ascorp and the Law of the Powerful
6 The Exploiter
6.1 Endiama
6.2 Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro
6.3 Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC)
6.4 Sociedade Mineira Luminas
7 The Agents of the New Order: systematic practices of sadism and cruelty
7.1 Alfa–5
7.1.1 Brief Annotation on Alfa–5
7.1.2 Description of Violations in 2006
7.1.3 Description of Violations in 2005
7.1.4 The Response from the General Manager of Alfa-5
7.2 K&P Mineira  7.2.1 Brief Annotation on K&P Mineira
7.2.2 Description of violations in 2006
7.2.3 Description of Violations in 2005
7.2.4 The Response from the General Manager of K&P Mineira
7.3 Teleservice
7.3.1 Brief Annotation of Teleservice
7.3.2 Description of Violations in 2006
7.3.3 The Response from the General Manager of Teleservice

8 Conclusions
8.1 The Strategy and the Resignation of the Government
8.2 Carte Blanche to Demonstrate Power and to Humiliate
9 Annexes
9.1 The Tale of a Brave Woman
9.2 Justice
9.3 Odebrecht and the Angolan Rulers: the samba of promiscuity


Goals of the Report

Defend humans rights in an unequivocal and uncompromising fashion.

Give the victims a voice.

Break away from the culture of fear and impunity.

Denounce the maintenance of blood diamonds, in Angola, by other methods and other protagonists, with tragic human and social consequences.

Promote citizenship and a sense of justice

Expected Outcomes

Discussion, in the National Assembly, of the Diamonds Law, currently used to justify

the pillaging and violence, so as to transform it into a legal instrument of protection,

also protection of the interests of the local population.

Putting an end to practices of sadism, cruelty and humiliation by private security companies and mining operators against the people of Cuango.

Raising of national and international public opinion awareness on the neo-colonialist conduct of the diamond industry in Angola.

Adoption, by the government, of specific and public measures, for respect and protection of human life, in the diamond bearing areas.

Broader public discussions for the diversification of the singular economy centered on diamonds, so as to promote the creation of employment, for social and political stability of the area.

  Executive Summary

“Angola is a foreign country to us.
We, Angolans, are treated worse than animals”

José Bartolomeu, miner

This report is a follow-up to Lundas: The Stones of Death[1] (2005). It looks at the tragic impact that diamond extraction has on the lives of local populations, the institutional incentives to permanently violate human rights, the privatisation of violence, and the unchecked plundering of these resources.

Due to financial and logistical limitations, this work only covers the hydrographic basin of the Cuango, in other words, Cuango municipality. The first report covered a wider area, both northeastern provinces of Lunda-Norte and Lunda-Sul, of almost 200,000km2 with over a million inhabitants.

Cuango has a surface area of 6,818.8km2 and is situated in the south-west of Lunda-Norte province. According to official estimates, it has a population of 140,000 inhabitants. This region is notorious for illegal immigration, in the tens of thousands, because of the garimpo[2] and the resulting commerce. As a traditional area for diamond extraction, Cuango is home to three major diamond-mining enterprises: the Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro (SDM), which has its headquarters in the administrative capital of Cuango; the Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC), at Cafunfo; and the Sociedade Mineira Luminas, in the commune of Luremo. These three diamond companies use the security firms Alfa-5, Teleservice, and K&P Mineira, respectively, to guard their operations.

Upon the end of ‘Operação Brilhante’[3], in February 2005, these private security firms assumed complete responsibility for combating all clandestine prospecting throughout the Cuango region. In practical terms, the entire region of Cuango, with the exception of the administrative zones of the state and a few highly populated areas, can be considered a restricted[4] and protected[5] zone, according to Law nº16/94 of 7 October, which established the ‘Special Regime of the Diamond-Mining Reserves Zones’. This ‘regime’ is also known as the Diamonds Law. Moreover, in the restricted and protected zones, in accordance with article 20 nº1 of the Diamonds Law, “any type of economic activity […] is prohibited, whatever its nature, whether industrial, commercial, agricultural, or other […]”.

In effect, the Government has divided Cuango into three slices and handed them to the three companies namely SDM, SMC and Luminas. In this manner, Alfa-5 hired by SDM, controls the Cuango’s administrative town, with the same name; Luminas hands over the control of Luremo to K&P Mineira; and Teleservice, under SMC contract, oversees the Cafunfo sector.

Thus, the security control exercised by these companies extends throughout the whole territory. The methods used epitomise the systematic violation of human rights in the name of the law and the authority granted by the state. These violations have a profoundly sadistic aspect given that, in general, the behaviour of the guards of the three companies includes beating their victims on the buttocks, undressing them and making them circulate naked or semi-naked in public, as well as other rituals of humiliation. They use, as distinct instruments of torture, shovels, or the handles of shovels, clubs and machetes. In the particular case of Alfa-5, various cases have been documented in which the victims are forced to carry out homosexual acts. In one particular case, a son-in-law was forced to violate his father-in-law.

Forced labour at the installations and the working areas of the aforementioned diamond extraction companies has become a routine part of life for the garimpeiros. It is used as a form of punishment which is administered by these companies. Similarly, K&P Mineira has a dual role in providing services to Luminas as well as Sodiam/LKI and Ascorp. On the one hand, it uses arbitrary methods, including violence, to expel the garimpeiros from the Luminas concession. On the other hand, it protects and accompanies Sodiam/LKI and Ascorp in the management and patronage of the garimpeiros. Although the Diamonds Law safeguards the practice of artisanal diamond mining, in other words, legal garimpo (Chapter III of the Law, nº16/94), for part of the local population, the Government prefers to keep them in a situation of permanent illegality.

Any agricultural or commercial activity in the region, like the rest of the Lundas, requires the direct authorisation of the Provincial Governor. It is well known that among the local population, there is not a single artisanal exploration licence, or a licence for the practice of subsistence agriculture. In this way, the Government stops these people from surviving without resorting to illegal methods. The consequences are tragic. For example, on 20 April 2006, guards from K&P Mineira stopped Franciso Pinto from fishing in the River Lumonhe, on the basis that the river and the fish in it are also part of the SMC concession. They beat him until he lost consciousness. Óscar Neves was hit in the eye with the butt of a rifle and was whipped by Teleservice for taking care of his personal hygiene by bathing in the River Cuango. Like all the other villagers, Neves used the river to wash because of the lack of piped water in the region. However, according to Teleservice, the river “is part of the concession”.

The law on Private Security Firms (Law nº19/92 of 31 July) prohibits, in article 4, paragraph a) private security activities involving “criminal investigation of any type”.The nº2, article 4 of Law nº19/92, prohibits “activities by private security firms that come into conflict with the performance of the proper functions of the security forces and security services and the civil protection of the State”. These companies do not observe the special obligations, according to paragraph a) of article 15 of the same law, to “give immediate knowledge to the judicial authorities or the police of any public crime of which they have knowledge in the exercise of their functions or that is clearly being committed”. Moreover, paragraph b) of article 15 of the above-mentioned law, prohibits  “personal performance that could be mistaken by the public for elements of the armed forces or the security services and the state’s civil protection services”. So, the documented cases show clearly a total disrespect for the law.

These businesses behave, without precedent, in an arbitrary way in detaining, interrogating and torturing citizens, as well as patrolling public roads and neighbourhoods with men in uniform who are armed for combat situations. Despite their effective public relations propaganda, the diamond companies do nothing to reduce the misery of the local populations in the area. Without work or other alternatives, the local people become exclusively dependent on garimpo. They are easy prey in the politics of the fight against garimpo. Such a situation is devastating the populations slowly, with the silent and silently, in complicity of international powerhouses and institutions more concerned with lucrative contracts or in getting cozy with the regime.

The Cuango region has the peculiarity of being under the effective control, from a military point of view, of the private security forces. This precedent represents, therefore, another type of threat to the institution of a true rule of law and a democratic Angola. Moreover, the subordination of the local administration, police authorities and the military to the aims of the businesses which operate in the region, in the face of the negligence of the concessionary, Endiama, acts as a cover for senior figures of the regime who are only looking out for their own particular interests. Thus, the privileged access to riches remains subject to the duality of violence and corruption. The maintenance of unchecked power by a few individuals, in the country, strives on such logic, in detriment of transparency and true democracy. So, it is time for the government to break from a political strategy dependent on violence and corruption, even if both are privatized.


[1] Marques, Rafael and Rui Falcão de Campos (2005), Lundas: The Stones of Death is available online at www.wilsoncenter.org/events/docs/ADDMarq.pdf

[2] Garimpo is clandestine diamond extraction. A garimpeiro is an unauthorised diamond prospector or miner.

[3] Operação Brilhante (Operation Shining) was a joint operation between the police forces and the military in order to combat clandestine mining and the illegal entry of foreigners into Angola. It began towards the end of 2003. This operation covered the provinces of Lunda-Norte, Lunda-Sul, Malanje and Bié, and, according to data provided by the Ministry of Interior, resulted in the expulsion of 256,417 foreigners who were in the country illegally.

[4] Article 17, no1 of the Diamonds Law stipulates that access to restricted zones is prohibited apart from those people who are legally involved in diamond production. The exception applies only to government officials and people and employers who are there in an official capacity. The government does permit concessionaires, in article 18 no1, the freedom to regulate the circulation of people in their concessions.

[5] In the same way, point 1 in article 19 of the Diamonds Law prohibits the circulation of goods in the restricted zones “without the authorisation of the concessionaire”, whereas point 2 of the same article permits such circulation with a written authorization by the concessionaire.

The report Lundas: The Stones of Death presents a legal analysis of the Diamonds Law and its perverse impact on the local populations. See www.wilsoncenter.org/events/docs/ADDMarq.pdf The full text of the Diamonds Law can be viewed at www.endiama.co.ao/pdfs/Lei16_94.pdf

The Government

“The diamond diggers aren’t dogs” Gomes Maiato, Governor of Lunda-Norte

Following the publication of the report, Lundas: The Stones of Death, the Minister of Territorial Administration, Virgílio Fontes Pereira, agreed to a meeting with the author on 5 June 2005, to talk about state administration and human rights in the Lunda provinces. He explained to the author the concerns of his party, the ruling MPLA[1], and the plans for the MPLA vice-chairman, Pitra Neto, to visit the area and “address the social and economic development” of the region. The next day, Mr Pereira told the Prime Minister, Fernando Dias dos Santos (known commonly in Angola as ‘Nandó’) about the meeting, including the concerns which were raised. He also passed on a copy of the report itself. There has been a notable reduction of tension between the local administration and the people in Cuango region, since the second semester of 2005. For example, as soon as the author visited the home of the municipal administrator of Cuango, Passos Gonga, on 1 April 2006 and told him about the way in which private security firms were treating the local population, the Administrator immediately alerted the Governor of Lunda-Norte, Gomes Maiato.

3 Selected Case studies:

 Case 9 Victim: Francisco Paulo Ita, aged 29, born in Cuango Date: 15 March 2006 Place: Txissueia Island Description of events: A group of 30 Alfa-5 personnel and three FAA soldiers carried out an assault on Txissueia Island at about 0900 hours. Six garimpeiros, according to Francisco Ita, were arrested. The security guards then searched the men for diamonds. “They inspected our anuses with the barrels of their guns,” said Mr Ita. During a torture session, the Alfa-5 and FAA elements forced the garimpeiros to undress and, according to Mr Ita, “They beat us with electric sticks [cattle prods] on the buttocks, the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet.” Mr Ita remembers receiving 29 blows, one for each year of his life. This was the system the tormentors used. “They then transported us to the FAA armoury [the regional command] where, in just our underpants, we were freed,” said Mr Ita. Notwithstanding this experience, the same group of garimpeiros returned to the same location at the end of the afternoon that same day, to try to continue panning for diamonds. They were captured again. Mr Ita said, “This time I urinated blood as a result of the beatings.” Determined to continue, the garimpeiros tried a third time, at midnight, to pan the gravel again. This time they were ambushed and, according to Mr Ita: “They told us that the government had even sold the rivers and we were left only with the lices.” Mr Ita also said that his captors decided to beat the garimpeiros at will, with kicks, punches and clubs.

Case 10 Victim: Januário Sebastião, aged 33, born in Cuango Date: 15 March 2006 Place: Txicuele Creek, in the vicinity of Vila do Cuango Description of events: Januário Sebastião was part of the group of 27 garimpeiros who were arrested on the banks of Txicuele creek. He was punished “with two reinforced shovels on the buttocks, three clubs on the hands and two clubs on the back.” Mr Sebastião also denounced the burning of the miners' clothes. “After the beating,” he said, “they put us in a Kamaz pick-up [a truck] and took us into the jungle, at a great distance from the villa, and left us there. We had to return on foot.” In a curious revelation, Mr Sebastião said that the operation was directed by “a white foreigner, very bad, who goes around with only a machete and cripples the miners.” “We are used to seeing many bodies in the river. For instance, if Alfa-5 comes across an isolated person or group of three, they annihilate them on the spot,” said Mr Sebastião.

Annexes 9.1 The Tale of a Brave Woman[1]

On the afternoon of 1 July 2005, I received an urgent satellite telephone call from the north-eastern town of Cafunfo, in the diamond-rich Cuango Valley. The caller said that the police had gone on a shooting spree against garimpeiros. The caller said that two diggers had already been killed. The caller called me again after midnight in despair. The answer-phone was on, so the caller left a message. The caller said that a member of his own family, a woman, had been hit during the police raid. Later that day, now 2 July, the caller telephoned again to request immediate assistance to evacuate Manasseja Lituaia, aged 34, to the Angolan capital Luanda. The woman had lost her child, which had been strapped to her back, when a bullet was fired at the child’s head. The bullet passed through the child’s head and into Ms Lituaia’s own back. Ms Lituaia was in urgent need of medical assistance. I had no means to provide specific help. All I could say was that I would see what I could do. On 6 July, as I was lay the table for breakfast, Ms Lituaia arrived at my doorstep. She moved very slowly, she was bent forward, and she was wearing a wrap around her head. Her face was swollen. She looked at me intensely. Wrapped around her waist, she carried all her travel possessions in a bundle. Before she sat down, Ms Liuaia said: “Before you take me to the hospital or whatever happens, I want to speak to the radio first so people may know how Vadinho [a police officer] shot me in the back and killed my son Amorzinho [Little Love].” I felt rather strange and helpless inviting a wounded person, who had not received proper medical care in five days, to have breakfast. As a matter of fact, she had not eaten properly for days. All she had was a one-way ticket for the only plane, a shabby Russian cargo aircraft, which flies to Cafunfo. Ms Lituaia explained what had happened: Several police officers, enough to fill three Land Rovers, arrived at the garimpo area of Lucola, Cafunfo, on 1 July 2005. They besieged the area and then went around confiscating the materials used for diamond mining, as well as taking diamonds and hard cash.

Next to the mining area, there was an informal market where Ms Lituaia was selling meat and fish. A police officer, whom she identified as being Vadinho, an investigator at Cafunfo police command, got out of one of the cars with a pistol at the ready. He began questioning the market vendors. Ms Lituaia explained: “I told the police officer that we were on a survival scheme. If he wanted us out of the market, all he had to do was to tell us to leave and we would do so, but he could not threaten us, because we had done nothing wrong.” 

 But apparently the officer, Vadinho, said he would kill the vendors. Ms Lituaia said: “I took my son Amorinho from underneath my meat and fish stand, and I wrapped him to my back. I walked three steps out of the place when I heard the gunshot and felt my arm cold.” She turned to look at her son and saw a stream of blood running from Amorzinho’s head. Her son was dead. The garimpeiros, Ms Lituaia told me, reacted immediately by throwing stones and bottles at the police officers. “Thus, the ‘war’ started,” she continues. “The police opened fire against the youths and I saw two of them falling, dead. Then, the police retreated.” According to an eyewitness, in an act of solidarity, the garimpeiros immediately regrouped to provide a burial for the two dead men, who were not from the area. A Procession Early in the evening, a man driving through the area, took Ms Lituaia and the body of her son close to the Cafunfo police command. “I took my son to the police station and told them they were responsible for his fate and it was up to them to dispose of his body”, she explained. In response, the police took her and her dead son to the hospital. According to Ms Lituaia’s account, the hospital staff refused to give her any treatment or to take care of her dead child’s body. Instead, they forced her to leave the hospital early the following morning. Immediately she walked back to the police station, with her son’s body in her arms. But the police didn’t want to address the matter. So Ms Lituaia laid down the tiny body of her son on the police station veranda, and turned to walk away. The local police commander, Caetano, then ordered his men to prepare the body, and buy a casket for burial. The child was buried without a single member of his close or extended family in attendance – only police officers. He lay in a cemetery in Bairro Gika against the family’s will. The family had wanted the burial to take place in their neighbourhood cemetery of Bala-Bala. According to Ms Lituaia, “The police commander said that they could not have the burial in Bala-Bala because it is ‘a place full of bandits’. What he meant is that Bala-Bala is the Tchokwé predominant area while Gika is Bângala.”

The local police command gave the family a total of US$500 for the expenses – such as food and beverages – for a wake. A police officer, Machado, who at the time of the raid was also harvesting diamonds, was locked up in jail, in case it was necessary to produce a suspect. Days later, the author received the information that he had escaped jail. By 1030 hours, the author called Superintendent Carmo Neto, the spokesperson of the general command of the Police (CMGPN), about the case. He promised to see the author in two hours, at CMGPN headquarters in Luanda. The author explained to the victim that there was no other way other than reporting the case to the police. Ms Lituaia stressed that the police killed her son and that she would rather go on the radio to tell the story of Amorzinho.

In the Headquarters At CMGPN, Superintendent Carmo Neto received copies of the briefing notes for the case. In the following two hours, Ms Lituaia was on top of the police agenda. A meeting of the senior members of the police was happening at that time, so they all came to know about Ms Lituaia’s case; they even saw her, sitting huddled up, next to the VIP elevator. Finally, one of the top police commanders, Commissar Octávio Van-Dúnem came personally. He gave his assurances that Ms Lituaia would have the best care possible and that her case would be handled accordingly. Immediately, a duty officer typed a formal report of the crime and annexed the briefing. By the time Ms Lituaia entered the military hospital, the medical staff were already waiting for her. An x-ray demonstrated that the bullet had hit her and then dropped to the ground. It was probably, according to the doctor, due to a loss of impact after piercing the child’s head. The doctor said Ms Lituaia did not need to stay in hospital. Another top police officer who heads the police medical services, Dr. Dias, went to the military hospital to follow up the matter personally. Before Ms Lituaia was released, Dr Dias ordered her to receive a tetanus shot, to prevent any infection. Dr Dias organised some accommodation for Ms Lituaia, at a police guest house. He also reassured her that the top of the police was on top of her case. The grieving mother travelled back home, escorted by a police delegation, which would now have to conduct an enquiry. Ms Lituaia is still waiting for justice. She has received no compensation for the loss of her son, Amorzinho.  


 8.1 The Strategy and the Resignation of the Government

To acknowledge the effort of the national police in the improvement of its relationship with the population of the Cuango basin, through respecting human rights and the citizenship of the community. There is an obvious overlap between the establishment of relatively good behaviour of the representatives of public order and the escalation of human rights abuses by private institutions. The government, is responsible for transferring the fight against garimpo from the national police and the army to private security firms without having established procedures for the control and legal restriction of these actions. In practical terms, the Government has privatised violence on behalf of the private security firms. There is an absence of a state policy in the social-economic administration of Cuango and the total abandonment to violence, misery and chance of the local population.

The government is also responsible for the obscure way in which concessions are handed out, the companies’ social responsibilities are set and facilities are granted to generals. Endiama, so concerned with its international image, has, like the Government itself, shown itself to be hostage to the private and foreign economic interests. It does not articulate a minimum of authority, in its actions, which can revert into benefit for the local populations.

8.2 Carte Blanche to Demonstrate Power and to Humiliate The diamond companies and the private security firms hold the moral and material responsibility for their acts of violence and abuses of human rights perpetrated by their staff. Employees are submitted to rigorous tests when they join and later, receive training. The perpetuation of the modus operandi (flogging, humiliation, torture, sexual services, sadistic rituals, assassinations as well as symbolic signs of punishment such as cutting off a trouser’s leg) shows an extreme need to demonstrate power. This happens in a region where the regime is experiencing intense political hostility from the local population. Other than placing blame on the individual guards for specific cases, the concerted actions of Alfa-5, K&P and Teleservice, shows that they are acting in accordance with very well-defined strategies. The Cuango situation requires, on the part of the government, the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the cases. It is fundamental that the government, right from the top, shows goodwill towards the people of Cuango and respects them as citizens as they continue to live in a climate of conflict, while peace reigns in other corners of Angola.

The government must go beyond simply using words to apply the law and allow justice, because it normally fails to fulfil its promises. Instead, the government must publicly ask to be pardoned by the people of Cuango for turning a blind eye on its duties to protect them. This would be the proof of good faith. Only like this will it be possible to demand that members of the government take political responsibility for the gravity of the situation. It is time for the government to elaborate and implement an emergency socio-economic plan for the Lundas. Members of the local public should be consulted and, from the outset, there should be an end to the neglect and slow death that the local population have been subject to. As part of this strategy, it is the duty of the government and Endiama, in public consultation with their partners and the local population, to define a strategy for the garimpo disputes. The benefits should be felt by all parties. This would show that a climate of socio-economic stability had been installed in the region.

From these premises, it is imperative that the government and Endiama create beneficial outcomes that the local populations can enjoy – instead of repeatedly announcing things that are merely for show without counting the years of broken promises. The state must hold responsible, in both civil and criminal cases, the moral and material authors of the wave of inhumanity which has swept across the region of Cuango. This would recognise and compensate for the moral and material damage inflicted on the local populations.

Finally, the National Assembly must hold a debate about the Diamonds Law because of the perverse nature and use of the law against the population. The parliamentarians must guarantee that the law becomes an instrument of protection, not merely of diamonds, but of all the people who live in the Lundas. The law must be appropriate for true peace, democracy and national unity. In addition to the Lundas, provinces like Bié, Malanje, Kuando-Kubango, Uíge and others, also have diamonds in their subsoil and none of them have been included in this law.  

Printable Version

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.

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