"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
(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
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
Upon the end of 'Operação
in February 2005, these private security firms assumed complete
responsibility for combating all clandestine prospecting throughout the
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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