Angola witnessed a massive demonstration in its capital city, Luanda, on Saturday as thousands of protestors demanded the resignation of President Joao Lourenco.
Demonstrations organized by UNITA, the country’s largest opposition party, the rally aimed to commemorate its late leader and also to express discontent with the current administration.
UNITA, which transformed from a rebel group into a political movement, suffered a controversial defeat in last year’s elections. Since then, the party has accused President Lourenco of behaving in an authoritarian manner and has vowed to initiate a parliamentary process to remove him from office.
The crowd of supporters, waving the party’s red and green flags, echoed the sentiments of UNITA leader Adalberto Costa Junior as he addressed them. Costa Junior pointed fingers at President Lourenco, blaming him for the prevalence of famine, unemployment, and the imprisonment of protestors. The response from the crowd resounded loud and clear, indicting the president as the responsible party.
While the demonstration was initially organized to celebrate the birthday of former UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, its focus soon shifted to the government’s alleged mismanagement and the resulting public dissatisfaction. Angola’s populace has voiced concerns about issues such as poverty, corruption, and the state of the economy, fueling the protests and thrusting the government under pressure.
Marisa Lourenco, an independent analyst not related to President Joao Lourenco, believes that UNITA is leveraging the widespread frustration in society to gain political momentum. The social discontent and discontentment have provided UNITA with an opportunity to mobilize support and rally the public against the current government’s policies and actions.
The call for President Lourenco’s resignation stems from the belief that his leadership has perpetuated significant challenges, hindering progress and development in Angola. With the echoes of the 27-year civil war between UNITA and the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) still resonating, the people have grown increasingly frustrated with the state of affairs.
The oil-rich southern African nation of Angola has recently faced a wave of protests following the government’s decision to cut subsidies for petrol in June. This move was aimed at reducing government spending amid the struggling economy, which has suffered due to a decline in oil prices that weakened the local currency, the kwanza. However, the decision resulted in sharp fuel price increases that the population found burdensome and unpopular.
Angolan citizens, frustrated with the government’s actions, have taken to the streets in protest. One protester, Costa Junior, expressed his discontent by stating, “We have a government that does not deserve Angolans.” The anger among the protesters is palpable, with chants of “Down with the robbers, down” resonating throughout the crowds.
According to Angola’s constitution, the president can be removed from office if he is deemed to have committed acts that threaten democracy. The main opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), has expressed a desire to initiate proceedings against the president, Joao Lourenco. However, UNITA has yet to announce a specific timeline for this action and has provided little information regarding the specific charges against Lourenco.
Observers speculate that UNITA may be attempting to exploit divisions within the ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), by employing a secret ballot during the removal process. However, experts argue that this initiative is unlikely to succeed, as removing the president requires a two-thirds majority vote in parliament and support from the courts. Considering that the MPLA has been in power since 1975 and controls both of these institutions, Lourenco’s position seems secure.
The MPLA has swiftly dismissed UNITA’s efforts to remove the president as “unserious” and “undemocratic.” They maintain that the government’s decision to cut subsidies was necessary to address the country’s economic challenges, and that the protests and opposition’s actions are unfounded.