Report on Visit to the Internally Displaced People in Lubango, Angola

Report on Visit to the Internally Displaced People in Lubango, Angola

Report of an ecumenical visit to the Internally Displaced People whose houses were demolished in Lubango on March 6-8.. They were dumped 10 km away in Chavola, without proper preparations. The delegation brought solidarity, food, and other supplies, and promised more. There was agreement that the government had been careless and heartless in these demolitions, causing needless suffering. The churches want to prevent it happening again. JK

Notes from a visit to Chavola – 27-28 march 2010

By Luis Samacumbi – IECA


The Executive (Provincial governor) of Huila Province instituted on March 6th a process of demolition of houses of people living within a radius of 25 metres of the Mocamedes rail line These demolitions caused fear and panic among the population concentrated in the area of Chavola some 10 km north of Lubango. The reactions of opposition did not raise any hope, and the cries of suffering were heard inside an outside the country.

It was in this context that an ecumenical pastoral and solidarity visit was organized for a delegation consisting of Rev. Luis Nguimbi- Secretary General do CICA, Pastor José Everest- Secretary General of Evangelical Alliance (AEA) e Senhor Luis Samacumbi – do Dev dept of the Congregational church, who coordinated the logistics. Christian Aid and Norwegian Aid assisted. The visit was on 27- 28 March.

It had these objectives.

· Show solidarity in the midst of these events.

· Visit and speak with people directly affected

· Hear the provincial authorities and other parties to determine events and reasons.

· Deliver some food and other aid.

2. Our activities:

Delegation was met by local pastors and journalists. We preferred not to make any statement until we had toured and assessed the sanitation,

We met 9 local leaders of churches belonging to AEA, CICA and OCIF – Christian organisation for the church of the future. Rev. Azevedo Bango Gueve of IECA represented the moderator of the Comissão Ecuménica de cooperação – CEC . Gueve is also Coordenador of CIPENE – Comissão de Igrejas para Eventos Não Ecuménicos.

The 2 leaders explained the reason for their visit. We all then went by 4 wheel drive over a bad road to Chavola.

2.1 Reality of Chavola 22 days after the demolitions.

WE met the Provincial Minister of Families and Women’s promotion – MINFAMU and the Minister of Assistance and Social reintegration- MINARS They were surrounded by many people who had come to receive 500 tonnes of food which had been stockpiled in preceding days by MINARS.

The Director of MINARS revealed that the demolished houses had been registered by the army, the railway and the municipal administration of Lubango while people were waiting for distribution of plots of land. This distribution never happened, and the demolition went ahead at a time of the rainy season. Barely 80 houses were built after the registration. These houses were built in anticipation of receiving plots.

Situation we found:

Many families continue to live in open air, and have not used yet one or two iron sheets they rescued and brought with them. Chavola has water supply but it is not fit for habitation. There is no school but many children are concentrated there; We met a team of Chinese erecting a school with the Railway, but this had not been done in advance of the demolitions. Some children were eating green guava leaves – a sign of lack of foodstuffs. The people continue to consume non-potable water, the public fountain functions with a solar panel but it is not sufficient. About 115 plots of land were available for distribution, but not quickly enough · There is a potential social conflict brewing, since there is already some local people living and farming there. Tensions are bound to spring up.

Our visit took place 22 days after the displacement, but the scene is still very sad and desolate and inhuman; its obvious that the situation was even worse at the beginning. In the tents distributed, 2 or 3 families with children are huddled together with their children without privacy. The leaders of the party in power and the local government were divided in their opinions of what happened; indeed no one really wanted to talk about it. The government promised to send roofing sheets, tents, and cement in the coming days but the people prefer to see it now, seeing is believing.

Due to the precarious conditions in Chavola, many families have distributed their children with other families back in Lubango, causing family break-up. A model house , constructed by the government, is intended as an example of what the people should build for themselves.

The advertised timetable was not stuck to for the demolitions; Jan to April was for preparing the people, and then they would be moved in June or later, after conditions for the transfer to the railine to Mocamedes were ready and it would be the dry season. Despite the fact that the people responded calmly and serenely to this treatment, there were physical attacks on workmen of the National Institute of Land Allocation by a group of discontented people who broke windows in a national police vehicle.

In the first 10 days of this crisis there was no govt representative present to provide help or information. This finally happened after an intervention by the President of the Catholic Bishops conference CEAST, Dom Bilingui with the provincial head of social services. We collected information that the Governor himself put on protective clothing and headed up the demolitions. There was no permission for filming or media coverage ; this would have revealed the great cruelty visible at the beginning.

2.2 Latent Social Conflict:

WE heard this testimony in Chavola of an older woman dressed in black: ” I was born here in 1944; and my 2 children were born here. I lost my gardens and found here these displaced people. Without talking to them they will prevent us from cultivating our gardens and we will have nothing to eat. Distributions of goods do not touch/help us. The colonial settlers left me here, and never mistreated me like this. And for this, who ran with the white man?: (not clear )

So land holding is a problem.

2.3 Psychological Trauma:

Many children were caught up in the demolition , and many confronted the situation alone, since their parents were not home at the time. They are much traumatized. If they are future leaders of the country they must receive treatment for trauma. Trauma also reaches adults mainly because of the cries of their children who saw huge machines knocking down their houses . Here is a pastoral challenge, and there is needed preaching about justice and reconciliation..

3. Donations of Goods:

4 Tonnes of food, rice, beans, cooking oil, and other materials like soap, and a big tent fro 300 people were supplied. It has been named the ECUMÉNICAL TENT; it is intended as school during the week and for church services on Sunday. These goods were distributed by the 9 representatives of the local churches to the stranded people.

4. Conversation with the President of Bishops conference.

We were received by the President of Conference Episcopal dos Bishops de Angola e Sao Tomé e Principe – CEAST e Archbishop of Lubango Dom Bilingui in Episcopal offices .he spelled out the chronology of events up to now, and pointed out the challenges facing the churches,, particularly in Huila. This is their number one problem at the moment, this useless emergency was created by government. The church is trying to reduce suffering, encourage the people, and supply social needs.

5. Press Conference:

The leaders of CICA and of AEA were interviewed by Journalists and broadcasters from Radio mais, Voz da América, Rádio Huila, Rádio 2000, Angop, TV Zimbo e TPA about their impressions: they replied as follows.

Rev. Nguimbi: This situation has been heard of far and wide. So we came to meet those directly victimized. By this catastrophe. He thanked the people for remaining calm and serene in their reactions. Demolitions should not create needles suffering as in this emergency. Proper governance would not do this.; it must be inclusive of the needs of all. 33 years after independence and 8 years after peace a man- made catastrophe like this cannot be justified.

Pastor Abias: Spoke of the food delivery; God is on the side of the people in difficult times like this. Lubango city should be organized to care for its people. The church cries with those who cry and rejoices with those who rejoice. Thus the church wanted to see first hand what had happened..

6. Questions:

a) How to punish such injustice that is happening in Angola.?

b) When this generation who rules us today is no longer here, what will coming generations say of them?

c) How to preach the Gospel in a way that can be seen and heard?

7. Conclusions and the Way ahead:

– Development yes, but plans for it must respect human life, and conditions must be made ready first before carrying out any demolition in any part of the country.

– The Church in Angola and others must continue to proclaim the gospel of peace and justice.

– Governance must be efficient and humane, and must encourage dialogue among the people.

– No one is an island, so the Angolan church, must call upon the support of its sister churches and partners to strengthen solidarity and banish evil.

– More funds are necessary to support the stranded families , especially the most vulnerable, in building houses in Chavola. Sheets and cement are urgent for the rainy times –April ; and for the cold season – May June July.

– The local coordinating committee of the churches – CIPENE – must continue to raise up the situation and lay out the situation that the families are facing in Chavola.

– Working to prevent latent social conflict by providing social opportunities, and providing conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence.

– Work with Authorities of the Governor of Huila in laying out and distributing allotments of land to people.

-In all actions, give major attention to those most vulnerable, handicapped, lame and children.

– Pay attention to children –especially re psychological trauma

A Word of thanks:

In the name of the delegation I am thankful sincerely for the prayers and messages of solidarity that we received from all corners of the country, from Europe and America. The rapid response of Christian Aid, of Norwegian Church Aid, and of Rev Etta Snow allowed us to act urgently as was required by the situation. I have no doubt that Global Ministries of the USA, the AMSF- Angola Memorial Scholarship Fund – Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Lutheran World Federation in Angola, the Reformed Church of Angola and many others will add to the value and rehabilitation of life and self esteem of women, children, and men forced to live in Chavola.

We admire the efforts of Rev. Azevedo Bango Gueve and all his team in Lubango. Without his marvellous work we couldn’t have done what we did. A word to my colleagues in DASEP for moral support and encouragement, for logistical arrangements, for this emergency action.

To Rev. Augusto Chipesse – Secretário Geral da IECA for entrusting me with this heavy task. Reverends Ovidio de Freitas, Rev. Domingos Saculanda and others of IECA sent messages of encouragement and solidarity via my mail box.

To Jim Kirkwood of Africafiles and Ms Donna K. Dudley for being point people for our communications.

To our family for putting up with our constant absences.

Let us work together for the promotion of Peace and Justice.