Brewing Discontent Within the Intelligence and Security Services

Operatives from the State Intelligence and Security Service (SINSE) recently addressed a letter to President José Eduardo dos Santos, in which it gave an account of the increasing levels of discouragement among their ranks, due to a lack of leadership and poor working conditions.

SINSE has a budget of KZ 66.6 billion (US$695 million) for the current year. Funds were also fairly generous in previous years. However, the distribution of much of these funds remains a mystery to the operatives.

In the confidential correspondence sent to the President, SINSE operatives request that José Eduardo dos Santos agrees to attend a meeting with them, so that they can explain their grievances and the institutional impediments preventing them from doing their work.

In advance, SINSE officials reveal that the current head of the institution, Sebastião Martins, rarely comes to the office, and when he does, he lacks motivation and authority. Last October, President José Eduardo dos Santos dismissed Sebastião Martins from his post of minister of the Interior, which he had accumulated with the leadership of SINSE. It appears that, while he was minister, Sebastião Manuel refused to play second fiddle to the minister of State and head of the Security Bureau at the Angolan presidency,

general Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa”. Sebastião Martins boldly strove to limit Kopelipa’s direct and arbitrary interference into operations within his competence.

Relations between Sebastião Martins and the Head of Military Intelligence and Security Services (SISM), general António José Maria “Zé Maria”, Kopelipa’s principal ally, are also strained.  General Zé Maria conspired against his SINSE colleague and usurped his authority to spy on, infiltrate and co-opt leaders of the opposition and to sabotage political parties’ initiatives. This is now a military operation under the jurisdiction of general Zé Maria.

A source confided that “[a]s we say, he or she who does not side with Kopelipa, cannot find work. They are dismissed. That’s what happened to the head of SINSE”. This explains the perfunctory manner in which the President removed Sebastião Martins from the post of minister of the Interior, as requested by general Kopelipa.

Yet again, the fate of the head of SINSE is at the mercy of general Kopelipa. Instead of deciding for himself what to do about the letter sent to him by the secret service operatives, José Eduardo dos Santos dispatched it for the consideration of general Kopelipa.

In general, political intrigue has gravitated around the management and plunder of the public treasury, and the dispute between Sebastião Martins, on one side, and Kopelipa and Zé Maria on the other, is no exception to the rule. On par with Sonangol, the defence and security sector, which consumes over 18 percent of the State Budget, is the principal vortex of institutional corruption. The fact that the President does not allow for any  kind of accountability of the defence and security budget expenditures facilitates direct plunder, in the order of billions of dollars. This has been the preferred method of illicit enrichment used by a select group of privileged generals.

With unusual regularity, groups within the defence and security services have taken to writing letters to the Commander-in-Chief, José Eduardo dos Santos, alerting him to the disturbing conditions within their ranks.

With the same regularity, the President of the Republic has consistently ignored the demands of military personnel and intelligence services agents. In practice, since 1992, over twenty years ago, the Commander-in-Chief has not set foot in a military unit. There were two brief exceptions, when he went to the Army General Headquarters in Luanda. The first time was to pay his last respects to general Simeone Mucune, who died in action in Andulo in 1999, and the second occasion was in 2002, when general João Baptista Cordeiro  “Ngueto” was killed in a helicopter accident. It has also been twenty years since the President has held a meeting with the heads of the branches of the Angolan Armed Forces and military regions.

Last year, members of the Central Protection and Security Unit (DCPS), a detachment of the Presidential Guard Unit, also sent a letter to the President dos Santos, demanding better working conditions and dignity in the fulfilment of their duties. They reminded the President that he is protected by soldiers and not by generals. This observation is echoed in the fact that, for a long time, the Commander-in-Chief has limited his availability to take advice on questions of defence and security. Generals Kopelipa and Zé Maria seem to be the only people who can influence him.

There is one fundamental question that ought be of major concern to all Angolans. What is the current situation with regard to the security and stability of the country, in light of the growing levels of restlessness within the ranks of the Angolan Armed Forces and the security and intelligence services?