The MPLA’s election plan
The action plan for the electoral campaign of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which formally starts on July 31, contains strategies that need to be made plain for all to see, in the interests of peace, political stability, and the distinction between party and state.
For the first phase of the campaign (from July 29 to August 15), MPLA defines the need to pay special attention to “critical areas to ensure order and tranquillity among voters”. To this end, MPLA envisages 19 permanent measures, including:
- “Instruct activists, sympathisers and friends of the MPLA and other voters not to take part in any actions that may suggest electoral impropriety, and to refrain from practising any kind of violence against other political parties or their activists;
- Denounce political parties, civil society organisations and citizens who incite voters to violence, disturbance or electoral fraud.”
The communications and security committee of MPLA’s electoral campaign, which is responsible for implementing these decisions, is co-ordinated by its politburo secretary for war veterans, Francisco Magalhães Paiva “Nvunda”, seconded by the deputy chief of the Intelligence and State Security Services (SINSE), Eduardo Fernando Bárber Octávio.
However, MPLA’s action plan presents, from the outset, two practical contradictions.
MPLA activists have regularly and violently attacked UNITA members who have been trying to carry out political activities in various locations in Benguela and Huambo provinces. These confrontations have resulted in deaths and injuries, which neither the MPLA nor the local authorities have acknowledged. MPLA has made no public statements to unambiguously discourage acts of violence on the part of its activists, and neither have any disciplinary or criminal proceedings been brought against those who disturb public order in this way.
In Benguela, where the situation has been most serious, the authorities have responded by deploying four military companies in areas considered sensitive in terms of political rivalry between MPLA and UNITA. For example, on July 5, a company of 90 soldiers from the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) turned a primary school in Chingongo commune, Balombo municipality, into a military garrison. The authorities forced the children outside the school and they now have their lessons under a tree. Day and night, the soldiers constantly patrol areas where UNITA is strongest, such as the village of Kangumbe.
On July 18, the company deployed in Capupa commune, Cubal municipality, received reinforcements of more soldiers and arms, including artillery. In these areas, as well as in Bocoio and Ganda municipalities, soldiers use heavy weapons in their patrols, including PKM machine guns, and have been creating a climate of insecurity and intimidation among UNITA members. The FAA general chief of staff, general Geraldo Nunda, visited the province to oversee the military deployment during the electoral period.
If there is a need to use heavy weapons and military patrols among communities during the election period, then either the government or the army needs to explain to the public what the reason is for these measures, which look like preparation for war. As the ruling part, the MPL, has secured the exclusive monopoly on violence.
The MPLA electoral strategy defines the provinces of Benguela, Bié, Huambo, Kwanza-Sul, Luanda and Uíge as the provinces with the largest electorate, which deserve its special attention.
UNITA, for its part, is most strongly rooted in Benguela, Bié and Huambo provinces, and has also capitalised on social discontent in Luanda. Since the death of its leader, Jonas Savimbi, 10 years ago, UNITA’s political structures have suffered from crippling and regular defections to MPLA. The ruling party has also infiltrated the ranks of its political foe to such an extent that it is reasonable to say that the MPLA has an effective control over the UNITA leadership.
The visible presence of Eduardo Octávio, the deputy chief of the Intelligence and State Security Services (SINSE), on the MPLA electoral campaign co-ordinating committee, is a violation of the Law on Political Parties, which prohibits members of the FAA and of the National Police from being actively involved in political parties. Eduardo Octávio is an officer of the National Police, with the rank of commissioner. His dual role also violates the Constitution, which establishes that the National Police is a non-partisanship institution and thus requires its agents on active duty to be non-partisan.
These contradictions give rise to an important question: must voters believe in what the MPLA says or in what it does?
As a great political and national security analyst said, anonymously, “no one is investing in [keeping the situation] calm, because we come from generations of conflict. Only confrontation really motivates us.” The analyst also regrets the way in which sectors of society, above all the elite, capitalise on the use of violence to maintain their privileges.
This time around, the MPLA is fearful of the consequences of social discontentment throughout the country, and of the influence of the Arab Spring in the consciousness of many Angolans. And because the vote and electoral promises will make little or no difference to the political and socio-economic set-up, the fundamental question is: between dialogue and violence, what is MPLA’s real choice? After 37 years in power, MPLA faces a dilemma between clinging to power at all costs and allowing people to freely express their will.
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