On 16 April, police and defence forces killed scores of pilgrims on Mount Sumi, in Angola’s central highlands, to avenge the deaths of eight police officers, allegedly at the hands of members of a Christian sect known as the Seventh Day in the Light of the World.
The tragedy underscores the extent to which the government endeavours to control the flow of information on the case, undermining the free press.
In a botched operation, the police officers were killed as they attempted to arrest the sect leader, José Kalupeteka, during worship. More than 3,000 followers, from many parts of the country, had camped at Mount Sumi, in Huambo province, for the sect’s summit.
The sect is an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Members have opted to live in seclusion while awaiting the end of the world.
Angola’s foremost cartoonist, Sérgio Piçarra, has shown in his work how press freedom became a casualty as well.
In Piçarra’s illustration, Mount Sumi is cordoned off with barbed wire, and there is a signpost that reads: “The access of strangers to this mountain is forbidden”. Next to it, an angry government official is accompanied by a police officer, whose finger is already on the trigger of his gun. The official is scolding three individuals on the other side of the fence – a parliamentarian from the main opposition party, Unita, a man carrying a briefcase representing an independent inquiry, and an ordinary citizen – who are not allowed on the mount. “Massacre? But haven’t I told you that we have killed only 13 guys?” screams the official at the three individuals.