Popular anti-authority preacher Jose Kalupeteka is paraded in front of the media in a yellow prison jumpsuit following a raid by Angolan police in Mount Sumi. Human rights activists say that more than 1,000 civilians were killed by the police and military in a siege aimed at crushing a group that has defied the government.
HUAMBO, ANGOLA (MAY 5, 2015) (ZINGO TV) – The only traces of thousands of Angolan Christian sect members who were camped in the hills of Mount Sumi are burnt-out vehicles, shacks pocked with bullet holes and bloodstains in the soil.
The Angolan police said 13 “snipers” from “The Light of the World” were killed during a raid to capture sect leader Jose Kalupeteka, a popular anti-authority preacher who says the world will end on Dec. 31.
Kalupeteka was arrested during the raid in the Sumi hills, 25 km (15 miles) south of Caala in the central Angolan highlands, a UNITA stronghold.
He was paraded in front of the media in a yellow prison jumpsuit on Tuesday (May 5).
The details of a police raid on April 16 in the remote hills of central Huambo province have been fiercely contested, sharpening the divide between the ruling MPLA and the main opposition party UNITA, which fought on opposing sides in a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.
It has also raised awkward questions about the government in Africa’s second-largest oil producer, which spent $6.5 billion on defence in 2013, the biggest slice of its budget and more than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.
Police said the raid came after nine police officers were killed by the sect, an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
President Eduardo dos Santos’ government accuses the group of mistreating its members by encouraging them to live in seclusion and defy Angola’s laws.
UNITA and human rights activists say, however, that more than 1,000 civilians were killed by the police and military in a siege aimed at crushing a group that has defied the government.
Police Commissioner Elias Livulu said only 13 were killed and anyone with evidence to the contrary should produce it.
The MPLA-led Huambo provincial government allowed no access to the hills for two weeks after the clashes, making it difficult to speak to any witnesses or sect members.
Makeshift metal shacks had been burned and looted, clothes were strewn on the ground and pots of food abandoned in a hillside village where the incident took place.
Local human rights activist Angelo Kapwatcha said in a report that the raid involved hundreds of police and soldiers armed with machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a military source he interviewed.
Some members of the sect were singing songs and shouted “our weapon is the Bible” and “Jesus is our protector” during the siege, the military source told Kapwatcha.
Rights activist Raphael Marques de Morais wrote in a May 1 article in The Guardian that military sources told him houses were burned down with people inside and sect members were “mown down indiscriminately, many of them praying to the end”.
De Morais, who faces trial on charges of defamation due to a 2011 book that alleges links between Angola’s military rulers and the “blood diamonds” trade, said his sources told him mass graves were filled in nearby villages.
During a brief and controlled visit to a small part of the affected area, Reuters saw no evidence of mass graves.
UNITA said it wants an independent investigation, possibly by the United Nations. Huambo Provincial Governor Kundi Paihama told Reuters he had no plans to investigate the clashes.