An undocumented shopkeeper from Guinea-Bissau was fleeing Angolan police in the capital city Luanda when he was hit by a taxi and killed. His death has provoked anger and outcry from the country’s West African immigrant community, who say they are harassed on a daily basis by police.
The police tried to cordon off the area but their barrier was quickly broken down by a crowd closing in on the policemen responsible for Mamadou’s death. The crowd eventually managed to seize Mamadou’s body and held a spontaneous protest for about ten minutes “in order to prevent the police from taking the body”, according to witnesses.
At one point, the Guinean ambassador even came to the scene to try and call for calm, but to no avail. Police brought in reinforcements who eventually dispersed the crowd and reclaimed the body.
“My friend died because he was trying to escape from the police”
Every day, when we close our shops, Mamadou and I go together to Cuca square to get a taxi. However, our stomachs are always twisted in fear when we go because there are frequent police checks and foreigners are often arrested. The best that you can hope for is that they will just ask for money, though the most zealous police officers ask for hundreds of dollars. The worst case scenario, if you are undocumented, is that you will be arrested and thrown into a jail where you will be mistreated before being deported.
Mamadou was 45 years old. He came to Angola about seven months ago in order to make money for his wife and children, who are still in Guinea Bissau. We both worked as shopkeepers. When business was good, we could make about 500 dollars a month. Back at home in Guinea Bissau, we only made about 100 dollars a month.
My friend died because he was trying to escape from the police in order to continue supporting his wife and children. [Editor’s note: For the time being, Mamadou’s body is still being held by Angolan authorities.]
In Angola, there are frequent police checks aimed at finding undocumented immigrants, especially in Luanda, which is one of the most economically dynamic cities on the African continent. Last December, authorities arrested 2,161 people. Amongst those arrested, 884 – mostly immigrants from other African countries, but also 300 Chinese – were deported.
Post written with France 24 journalist Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).