It all started in 2022 when the organization, "of an altruistic, charitable, philanthropic and educational nature", affiliated with the BUSF movement, originating in Brazil, was created in Angola, according to a diploma consulted by Lusa and which, for its members, is a proof of its legality.
The diploma, published on September 8, 2022, regarding the constitution of the Association of Peace Firefighters in the Communities, represented by Flávio Canhongo, Neusa Chagas and António Velho, mentions that this entity is directed "imperatively by the task force and administratively by the organization BUSF-CPLP".
Among its rules of action are "carrying out emergency projects to combat the impacts of natural risks, with catastrophic effects, and carrying out cooperation projects for the development of disadvantaged Angolan fire institutions and combating crime in the community with the National Police of Angola (SIC)".
The organization also declares itself "apolitical" and respectful of any religious creed or political ideology and states that its members "will not seek status in their actions or obtain financial or professional profits from emergency response activities".
Since that time, the leader of BUSF Angola, Flávio Canhongo, has participated in activities with government entities, recently received his counterpart from BUSF Portugal and gave several interviews to the media, in addition to developing training activities.
BUSF also has a branch in Brazil.
According to information from BUSF members contacted by Lusa, the movement recruited around 55 thousand members into its ranks, supposedly in exchange for monetary sums, and a company providing services in various areas, from construction to tourism, was also created, designated BUSF Angola, Lda.
On Monday, the Ministry of the Interior made known in a statement its concerns about the group, which it declared illegal and made up of elements that carry out "acts outside the law, with the intention of confusing national and international public opinion".
"The Ministry of the Interior informs that the aforementioned group is illegal, without any link with this body and its leaders, and therefore vehemently repudiates the actions carried out by it and advises citizens to refrain from such practices, as well as calling on the collaboration with the authorities in denouncing acts of this nature", reads the statement signed by the ministry's spokesperson, Vasco da Gama.
Contacted by Lusa, Venâncio Pedro, who identified himself as protocol director at BUSF Angola, stated that, last Friday, the company's office in Luanda was invaded by agents from the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) who vandalized the space, They took cell phones and computers and seized an estimated value of 5 million kwanzas, in addition to arresting 10 employees.
The same person in charge said that Flávio Canhongo is not the current leader of BUSF, as he decided to take the business route, BUSF Angola Lda. with the firefighters now led by Nelo Correia.
He also stated that the self-styled commander Flávio is a firefighter from the Angolan civil protection services and belongs to the ministry, claiming that everything was done with the knowledge of his hierarchical superiors and that Angolan legislation allows firefighters to also be association leaders.
Furthermore, he added that SIC elements appeared at the office without carrying any warrant and broke into the president's office, in addition to attacking and threatening employees.
According to Venâncio Pedro, the BUSF commander was not present because he was involved in party activities, as he belongs to the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
The same official added that the employees who were taken are in private prison and that lawyers have not yet been able to contact them. As for Flávio Canhongo, he will be "partly uncertain" for fear of reprisals, according to BUSF members contacted by Lusa.
A police source confirmed to Lusa that "some members of the group" are being detained, without further clarification.
In a video to which Lusa had access, Flávio Canhongo claims to be a victim of persecution and "an injustice, a slander", reinforcing that the organization is well documented, like the company, is recognized by the Angolan Government and that everything is being done to restore legality.
"We are not criminals, we do not wear police uniforms, we do not use any means of the Angolan State, the means we use are ours", states the leader of BUSF Angola.
"Each firefighter organization is free to create its members' hierarchy badges, which law says it is a crime", asks Flávio Canhongo.
On Facebook pages, it is possible to find several videos and testimonies from BUSF members, wearing similar uniforms to the ministry's bodies, in which they declare their loyalty to God and the country, as well as to "commander Canhongo", complaining about persecution and even calling for the intervention of the President, João Lourenço, to support his leader.
BUSF, according to the organization's website in Brazil, was created on January 1, 2005 and arose from the initiative of a group of Brazilian emergency response professionals, with Bolívar Fundão Filho as its first president.