Ver Angola


May 27 wounds remain open and survivors demand Truth Commission

The wounds opened on May 27, 1977 in Angola remain unhealed and the survivors of the massacre that mourned the country at that time demand the formation of a Truth Commission, as long as it is not “of forgetfulness”.

: Ampe Rogério/Lusa
Ampe Rogério/Lusa  

"You cannot ask a son of a missing person, who still does not know where his father died, to give a hug to the one who has been killing his parents. This is a terrible barbarity. another hypothesis within the scope of serious truth commissions and not commissions of forgetting and hugs or forgiveness", argues José Fuso, from the board of the Associação 27 de Maio.

Together with other organisations, Associação 27 de Maio is part of the Plataforma 27 de Maio, which fights for the discovery of the truth and for Angola to be reconciled, 46 years later, with itself.

On 27 May 1977, an alleged attempt at a coup d'état, in an operation allegedly led by Nito Alves - then former Minister of Internal Affairs from independence (11 November 1975) until October 1976 - was violently repressed by the regime of Agostinho Neto, the first President of Angola.

Six days earlier, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MLPA, in power) had expelled Nito Alves from the party, which led the former minister and several supporters to invade the prison in Luanda to free other sympathizers, at the same time taking control of the Luanda station national radio, a movement that became known as "fractionism".

Troops loyal to Agostinho Neto, with the support of the Cuban military, ended up establishing order and arresting the rebels, followed later by what became known as the "purge", with the elimination of the factions, with around 30,000 people being killed, for the most part without any connection to Nito Alves, as stated by Amnesty International in various reports on the subject.

In April 2019, the President ordered the creation of a commission (the CIVICOP), coordinated by the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Francisco Queirós, to draw up a general plan to honor the victims of the political conflicts that took place in Angola between 11 November 1975 and April 4, 2002 (end of civil war).

About three years later, the Government held funerals for Alves Bernardo Batista "Nito Alves", Jacob Caetano João "Monstro Imortal", Arsénio Lourenço Mesquita "Sihanouk" and Ilídio Ramalhete, victims of the alleged coup d'état on 27 May 1977.

But the open wounds on the 27th of May remain unhealed because the DNA analysis of the remains of victims of the massacre handed over to their families, including the bodies of Sita Vales and José Van-Dunem, do not match the bones.

Michel Francisco, from the group of survivors of the 27th of May, tells Lusa that he already foresaw this outcome.

The refusal of the Angolan authorities to allow the participation of survivors or relatives of the victims of the massacre meant that the group of survivors "understood right away that what they wanted was to minimize the issue, to remove responsibility from the people who were implicated", he says.

José Fuso has the same opinion.

"We were in good faith. We had several conversations with Minister Queiroz. And from a certain point on, we were simply ignored, put aside. They didn't want to know. I mean, they pretended that they heard us, they pretended that they were going to give voice to the relatives and the victims", he recalls, speaking to the Lusa agency.

Josefa Silva, 56, from the M27 Association, which brings together orphans, saw several members of her family disappear, including her father, and some uncles.

"My grandfather had four children who died, two more who were imprisoned, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law too, it was a very affected family", she tells Lusa.

He admits that when he learned of the Government's intention to hand over the bones to the families, he was "sceptical" about the results, "taking into account how things went" and the fact that many of the victims were "piled up" in mass graves and died in different heights.

Even so, she decided to hand over her genetic material to the Angolan authorities, although she only did so when a team of Portuguese forensic specialists arrived in Angola, to "make sure that there was going to be an impartial counter-analysis".

"It was our wish, to be able to have something, to have a funeral to close the cycle.

After it became known that the mortal remains handed over by the Government did not correspond to the victims of the 27th of May, she considers that the wounds have reopened.

"The process has rekindled wounds that were trying to be healed over time. This wound has reopened, we are hoping that from now on better things will happen and the process will be better framed", so that it moves towards the clarification of what happened in 1977.

Josefa Silva says that, on the Angolan side, no one else contacted her, but according to the conclusion of independent experts, her genetic material did not correspond to any of the remains that were handed over.

Michel Francisco points the finger at João Lourenço.

"The one who looks bad in the picture, this has to be said, is the President of the Republic. Because we knew that it would come to nothing, because the Commission itself did not integrate the people indicated to participate in the process, the relatives of the victims did not participate", he argues.

Michel Francisco points out that the credibility of CIVICOP would be ensured with the presence of representatives of the United Nations and the African Union.

"They did that in absentia. That soon indicated that something abnormal was going on. That is, I repeat again, in the understanding of the survivors, this Commission was created only to absolve the responsibility of the people who were involved" in the repression.

"The sensible thing would be to create a Truth Commission, where all those responsible involved in the bloody repression, in this barbarism, would have to confess or not their crimes and help indicate where they were, where they placed the bodies of the people they murdered and after that starting with a process, then, of certification, with a specialized commission led by the United Nations or with any other entity indicated in order to be able to have the true identity of the victims", he adds.

Now, with the problem of the lack of correspondence between the bones given to the families and the DNA analyses, the suspicions are confirmed.

Michel Francisco concludes that the objective was "to hide and exonerate the MPLA for the crimes it committed against thousands of people" and says that João Lourenço has only one way out: "If he wants to do well and finish his mandate well, there is still time to redo what we have been suggesting and which is the creation of a Truth Commission to discover, clarify the contours that were at the base of that tragedy that victimized thousands of young people, most of them innocent, who today could be giving the his greatest contribution to this country".

José Fuso classifies the identification of mass graves, funerals and delivery of bones as a "television show".

"They created a whole situation there around a television show to say what they were doing without having done anything", he says, and adds: "How is it that in a process like this with so much pain for families, with so much tragedy, names are announced of people. The conclusion I can draw is one of great sadness on the part of the families. An enormous disappointment of the people who believed that there was finally a political will to effectively solve this case".

Michel Francisco reinforces and considers that "forgiving yes, but forgiving does not mean impunity".

"I believe that we are going to have justice and we are going to fight for it until we die. We are going to fight to the death for justice to be done, because what happened is unacceptable. people can be found, why is Angola going to be different, it cannot be different", he concludes.


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