This is a diary about an Angolan political prisoner, Luaty Beirão. An account in the first person that serve as testimony of the daily life during the 13 days that he was imprisoned in a jail of Angola and that still includes an interview with Carlos Vaz Marques where he approaches the 36 days of a hunger strike that left him in danger of life.
Is this a diary about the time you were in jail?
Luaty Beirão: It's actually 13 days when I had access to a notebook and a pen the year I got there. Later it is compensated with a deeper interview of Carlos Vaz Matos in which it is approached what is not registered in the diary. They are basically thoughts, lyrics, things of the next visit that had to bring me, has a little of everything, is very mixed.
Is it the one-year report?
LB: There is a three-month hiatus of house arrest, after the conviction we returned to the prison where we stayed since June 20th, 2015 until we were released on the 29th, one a year and nine days later.
What has changed in Angola?
LB: It has been changing, there has been a leap since this period when we were imprisoned. There is a slow awakening of consciousness, a timid silence of fear, there is a reversal in how people relate to their own fear, they begin to talk more and protest even in smaller spaces such as social networks, yet they do not transport it to the street, but feels that it is disappearing little by little. The way is done walking and one step at a time, I also do not know if it would be very good that everything was so sudden, I do not know if we would manage a changeover night, this is how it has to be and is running good. I cannot quantify a time for this change to happen, I know it will not be for us anymore, we are the agents of change, but I do not know if it will be immediate, we must provoke it.
And Portugal should be an agent in this change?
LB: If Portugal is not conniving it would be good, it cannot do more for sovereignty issues. Do not shut down lawsuits that exist here because of crimes that were committed there. They like to say that powers are separate, but it is not always the case here, but the role of not helping those who are there is already something. Is enough.
Do you have a normal life in Angola?
LB: There is no normal life in Angola. Nor do these people who find themselves squandering thousands of euros on watches live normally. Some live-in domes, behind walls, they go out with armored cars which is not normal and the others live in another extreme in search of water, light and food, basic things for the day to day life. None of this is normal. But I realize what you want to ask me, if I am troubled or followed, I think I am in a more discreet way, I used to see them when I went out on the street, but I have the notion, that I and the others are monitored. We learn to live with it too, it is not normal, it is the life we have.
Going back a little to the diary, this is a 13-day record in which you also wrote to not to go crazy.
LB: I was confined to a solitary, I do not know if it was not to go crazy, I do not know what would have happened if we had not access to books and writing, I do not know how I would have dealt with a cell for 3 months, at the level of my psychosomatic state. Well, fortunately after three days we had books, notebooks and pens, which were later taken away when they invaded the cells and sometimes they carried the notebooks and pens. Then came a point where I no longer wanted to write, because I did not know if I would ever see my writings again. This notebook that came out was luck, someone who already had the experience of being imprisoned in Angola knew that this would happen sooner or later and managed to camouflage the notebook on something and that went to the city. I was 100 kilometers from the city.
Do you think that your cry has inspired more people not only in Angola, but in other countries?
LB: I do not know if I could say that it inspired other people all over the world, or in Angola and that this is transforming something. I'm not too worried about ego, vanity, this thing about the self, I do not really like to talk about it. I am not alone, but if what we are doing is transforming, that would be great, not for the sake of vanity, I hope I do not get it. What is being achieved is the social transformation in a political environment that is hostile, I think this is much higher, either by individual action or whoever.
But it helped to make your case known.
LB: There is the stupidity of the totalitarian regimes of not being aware of the limits and the visibility that can be given to a group of people who are small and insignificant and who come to have a stage and a space. It was undoubtedly the great worldwide media spotlight that eventually reversed our situation, otherwise we would be in jail until today.
Were 36 days of a hunger strike, what were the physical and psychological sequels that remain? Did the chronicles help in this direction?
LB: No, because I wrote it before. That was written in the first month, the hunger strike happens in the third month of jail, fortunately when I went to do a series of exams after nothing appeared that would have affected me, it was miraculous. The doctor advised me on the 30th that everything was looking fine, but from then on, I could have an organ failure in a cascade.
And on the psychological level did you fear for enclosed spaces? Or being alone?
LB: No, I like to be alone, maybe it was because of this that solitary did not affect me so much, I had many positive things in the middle of this disorder. It was mainly my family who felt it more. I was "well treated" in prison, my wife even brought me salmon. It even seems that I am minimizing the gravity of the situation, but I prefer to look at what was positive, I had time to read and I was informed about the revolt that was in society and how it started to transform. The worst thing for me was being away from my daughter.
Do you think that the conditions you had in the jail you just mentioned came about because your father was a public figure in Angola?
LB: Mine already passed away in 2006 and my colleagues were also in solitary cells, deprived of seeing each other, I was even further deprived of having visits later and there was an episode of revolt by the way they were treating us. But in those first 3 months all those who had the same prison as me, suffered the same treatment, there was nothing differentiated.
So, what did you notice is that thanks to an international campaign there was a different treatment? Because other types of prisoners who did not have the media spotlight and the actions of non-governmental organizations behind had received the same treatment?
LB: I'm pretty sure of that, yes, I cannot prove it, if it would have been different if it had not been the media spotlight. I know people who are currently political prisoners who are not having the same treatment. And the more they can torture people by depriving them of their rights embodied in the prison law, they do so without hesitation. It is only when people can get the message out that they end up giving in. I have the notion with all the attention we had they were more careful more or less.
And the people you mentioned are in prison and suffering all kinds of torture, is Luaty their voice out now?
LB: I do not like to intitule myself of their voice. I am one more, it is what I have tried to be and not be singularized that way. Therefore, I continue to do what I did before I was arrested and focus on the injustices that are happening in Angola, but I do not consider myself a representative of these people. If you consider me one of them, I already consider myself recognized.