UPDATE 1-Angolan police detain 7 at youth protest against president

Thu Sep 19, 2013 3:58pm EDT

Related Topics

* Police play down incident, say youths won't be charged

* Youths urge president to quit after 34 years in power

* Authorities have clamped down on several demos since 2011

By Shrikesh Laxmidas

LUANDA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Angolan police said on Thursday they detained seven people at a protest in Luanda by a youth movement calling for President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to quit after 34 years in power, but said they would not be charged.

Police spokesman Aristofanes dos Santos said the detentions followed "minor disturbances" and the youths' identities would be registered but they would be released, possibly on Thursday.

Members and supporters of the youth movement said on social media the police had used excessive force.

The Angolan Revolutionary Movement (ARM) has staged several protests since March 2011, accusing Dos Santos of mismanaging Angola's oil revenues and suppressing human rights. Though small in numbers, it has survived a police clampdown on most rallies.

Dos Santos, who last year easily won a one-sided election to secure a new five-year term, has dismissed the youthful opponents as not representative of the wider population. His ruling MPLA party has dominated elections since it emerged the victor in 2002 from a 27-year civil war.

The youth protest movement planned to hold a rally at busy Independence Square in central Luanda, but police - including dozens of officers, several large trucks and dogs - blocked access to the centre of the square.

The large police contingent, armed with machineguns and pistols, urged foreign journalists to leave the scene, saying they could not guarantee their safety. One officer warned reporters they could be detained for disobeying police orders.

"The way they (police) have set this up, it's impossible to get to the middle (of the square)," Adolfo Campos, one of the demonstrators, told reporters shortly before he was detained.

"It's very tense, this is how Angola is," Pedrovski Teca, another protester, said.

They said the event was authorised under Angolan law as they did not receive any formal response from the local government to their communication giving notice of the protest.

YOUNG POPULATION

The police spokesman had said on Wednesday the demonstration was not authorised and that police would use force if necessary to repress it as they expected activists to carry posters inciting violence and disturbing public order.

The spokesman said on Thursday: "The disturbances were minor, small discussions and so we made the detentions as it was a public area under police watch, but thankfully nothing deserving criminal charges. We found some materials inciting violence but nothing large scale."

Angola, Africa's No. 2 oil producer, hosts one of the world's youngest populations. Two-thirds of its estimated 20 million people are under 25.

But despite a flourishing oil industry that will help fuel growth of just over 7 percent this year, the gap between rich and poor in the southern African nation remains acute and youth unemployment is 30 percent, according to government estimates.

Speaking to 3,000 youths at an official event last week, Dos Santos said jobs for the young was one of his main priorities.

Analysts say a young population is an opportunity for Angola to create diversified growth, but warn it also presents risks.

"If the conditions for the absorption of this potential labour force are not given (education and jobs), the opportunity becomes a challenge," said Markus Weimer, senior analyst for Africa at risk consultancy Control Risks.

"Continued dissatisfaction and economic marginalization of the youth is a long-term challenge to political stability."

The president has dismissed the risk of social upheaval, saying in a rare televised interview in June that most Angolans supported his government.

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