LISBON – Angola’s government plans to swiftly pay overdue subsidies owed to veterans of the long civil war after hundreds of them staged protests in Luanda on Thursday, a state-owned daily newspaper reported.
“On June 7 a group of former soldiers headed towards the ministry, demanding their late subsidies,” the defence ministry said in a statement cited by the Jornal de Angola.
“The payment of the late subsidies will be processed as soon as possible, through the national banking system. We ask the former soldiers to remain calm as all measures to resolve the situation have been taken,” it added.
Almost immediately after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola’s competing liberation factions fell into war. The southern African state turned into a Cold War battleground that pitted the Russian- and Cuban-backed MPLA against UNITA, supported by apartheid South Africa and the United States.
The conflict lasted 27 years, killing an estimated half a million people and leaving the country riddled with minefields when it ended a decade ago.
Former soldiers had previously sent delegations to parliament to present their claims to lawmakers. Many have never received military pensions or disability subsidies, while others have complained about frequent delays in receiving the funds.
President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, whose MPLA won the war, has been long criticised for doing too little to fight poverty in Africa’s second-largest oil producing state after Nigeria.
The defence ministry said the protesters at Thursday’s rally were former soldiers in the ruling MPLA’s armed group FAPLA.
The Portuguese state news agency Lusa reported that riot and military police blocked the march, adding that tensions only eased when a delegation was received by General Sachipengo Nunda, commander of the armed forces.
Dos Santos, who has been in power for 32 years, has faced unprecedented protest since the start of last year, with a burgeoning youth movement staging several rallies calling for him to step down.
The president is expected this month to announce he will lead the MPLA in an August 31 election to select lawmakers and a president.