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Angola: Unemployed resort to 'funeral hunting' for free food

A picture of a cemetary in Luanda Angola   -  
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Hunger and unemployment are turning some Luanda residents into "death hunters", whose mission is to stand at the entrance of cemeteries and follow relatives of the deceased to the residence where the ceremonies are held in order to feed themselves.

Guilherme Augusto Dias is one of these cases. For three months he has been "death hunting" in the Angolan capital, a strategy that involves going to the funeral ceremonies of strangers and then eating the meal offered by the family.

The unemployed 40-year-old explains that the intention is also to give some comfort to those who lose loved ones.

In Angola, it is a traditional practice, after a funeral, that the family of the deceased offers a meal in his honor, usually composed of porridge from cornmeal or cassava and beans with palm oil and where everyone, from neighbors to relatives and friends, or even strangers can attend.

Hundreds of people come to Luanda's cemeteries every day, some to pay homage to the dead or to bury a relative, others looking for a way to fill an empty stomach.

The known "death hunters" say that this mechanism is an escape to kill the hunger and overcome the difficulties they go through daily to sustain themselves, a practice in which many have been involved for months.

At the entrance to the cemeteries of Santa Ana, in Viana, or Camama, in Luanda, these people are among the dozens who come to the cemeteries, often confused to be relatives of the deceased.

Last week, Guilherme Dias was arrested by the police because he was mistaken for a demonstrator who had gathered at the Santa Ana cemetery.

"This happens once in a while (looking for deceased), but this time I was surprised, I've been doing this for three months and I've never had problems like this," he told Lusa at the Luanda court, where he was tried and acquitted because they had nothing to do with the case.

Guilherme Augusto Dias, who was among the group of activists acquitted by the Luanda District Court, after being arrested on April 8, following an attempt to hold a demonstration, still remembers the days he was detained.

"In the first police station, we were placed in a cell in bad conditions. We spent the night on the floor and there was no bathroom to use or even toilets. There was no water. We spent the night like this," he lamented.

João Baptista Kifuta, 23 years old, also a member of the "death hunting, group" confessed that by waiting for a funeral and then accompanying the bereaved has fed him for some time now.

"What happened is that I was at Santa Ana (cemetery) waiting for a funeral, which is not part of my family. I always do that. Every month, two or three times I go there to wait for a funeral so that I can feed myself," he told Lusa.

According to the young man, who is unemployed, this is a practice that brings many people together. "I also meet (at the entrance of cemeteries) other people with this same intention, I've been doing this for a year," he stressed.

Detained under the same circumstances, this "death hunter" also recalled the "very bad" days when he was detained for the first time in a cell: "I've never been through that kind of a situation. I was just crying and in the cell, there were really no good conditions. No water and food. It was smelling really bad and it was the first time I was detained".

Guilherme Augusto Dias and João Baptista Kifuta, "death hunters" recently "hunted" as demonstrators by the Angolan police were freed, after being acquitted of participating in a riot.

They are part of a group of 20 young activists acquitted last week by the Seventh Section of the District Court of Luanda and had intended to demonstrate against the choice of the company by the name Indra to manage the electoral process of the elections scheduled for August and for the release of political prisoners.

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