The President and the General Kangamba
For the first time in history, an Angolan general has been targeted with an international arrest warrant. General Bento dos Santos “Kangamba”, a member of the presidential family and a leading figure of the ruling MPLA party, is wanted in Brazil on suspicion of leading a gang involved in the trafficking of women for prostitution, conspiracy and forced confinement.
Kangamba’s case is unprecedented, and the level of protection that he enjoys from the President beggars belief. Kangamba himself joked that he does not have magical powers. He made this joke to explain how he manages to deal with millions of dollars at a time, despite having no visible successful businesses. The secret of his success is the presidential favour that he enjoys.
The warrant for Kangamba’s arrest has been met with deafening silence on the part of the Angolan presidency and the attorney general. The case damages the image of the President himself, as well as that of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and the ruling party. Kangamba is just the latest in a long line of shady characters whom the President has welcomed into his inner circle. As far as the FAA are concerned, the presence of a small group of corrupt and disreputable officers like Kangamba is bringing shame upon a force that also includes many dedicated and patriotic individuals.
Both the FAA and the MPLA took appropriate punitive action against Kangamba when they were called upon to do so. In 2000, the Supreme Military Court condemned Kangamba to two years and eight months in prison for fraud and for falsifying documents. He went to prison, and the MPLA expelled him from its ranks. But President Dos Santos overrode everyone and everything by rehabilitating Kangamba and embracing him as an influential member of the family. He made him a three-star general and reappointed him to the MPLA central committee.
During his 34 years in power, the President has displayed an extraordinary talent for getting away with wrong and often illegal decisions, to the point where he appears invulnerable. But the Kangamba case threatens to embroil him in a political and diplomatic mess like never before. The trafficking of women is a serious international crime and the President has a duty to clear up the accusations as quickly as possible.
It is essential that Dos Santos, as President of the Republic, Commander in Chief of the FAA and head of government release an official response to the international arrest warrant against Kangamba. In his capacity as chairman of the MPLA, Dos Santos must see that his party takes an official position regarding the fact that Kangamba – who is the MPLA’s secretary for suburban and rural mobilisation in Luanda province – is in trouble with Brazilian justice.
How Dos Santos deals with the Kangamba affair in his role as family patriarch is a private matter, according to Angolan tradition. Nevertheless, Kangamba’s wife, Avelina dos Santos, is not only the President’s niece but also deputy director of his office. As if this act of nepotism were not enough in itself, the fact that his wife is a holder of high office in the presidency is a further reason why the Kangamba case deserves to be treated as a public matter.
In terms of the Constitution, sovereignty resides with the people and the President serves at the pleasure of the people. If Dos Santos wishes to salvage the honour and the dignity of the office he occupies as well as the honour of the armed forces, he must hand over Kangamba to answer the charges he faces in Brazil.
Chronology of a Recurring Offender
Bento Kangama’s past is testament to his extraordinary capacity to shrug off criminal charges and re-emerge stronger than before.
2000: The Supreme Military Court (TSM) sentenced him to two years and eight months in prison, for indecency, fraud and falsification of documents. He was also ordered to pay compensation of US $427.531 to the Portuguese firm Filapor, which he had defrauded. The MPLA’s Political Bureau expelled Kangamba from the Central Committee as a result of his criminal conduct.
2002: The Supreme Court sentenced Kangamba to four years in prison for fraud. The court also sentenced him to pay compensation of US $75,000 to the companies Nutritiva and Lokali.
2009: The MPLA readmitted Kangamba to its Central Committee.
2010: Kangamba married Avelina Escórcio dos Santos, daughter of the President’s older brother, Avelino dos Santos. The President attended the wedding.
2012: Raúl Mendonça, vice-president of Kangamba’s football club Kabuscorp FC, personally directed a militia group that captured anti-government youth demonstrators Mário Domingos and Kimbamba, who were tortured while in captivity. Various reports have suggested that Kangamba was responsible for the militia who terrorized and persecuted anti-Dos Santos demonstrators.
2012: José Eduardo dos Santos, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Angolan Armed Forces, made Kangamba a three-star general; in violation of a constitutional provision that prohibits party political officials from holding the rank of general in the army.
2012: A court in Sintra, Portugal, ordered the seizure of Kangamba’s assets in that country in payment of a debt of more than €1 million to Manuel Lapas, a Portuguese citizen.
2012: Dos Santos included Kangamba on the MPLA’s electoral list for parliament. After the election, the controversy that arose from the fact that Kangama had previously received a prison sentence prompted him to refuse his mandate.
2013: Kangamba escaped arrest in Monaco. His operatives, detained by French police, revealed that the €3 million (US $4 million) they were transporting in shoe boxes in two vehicles were to help feed the general’s gambling addiction.
2013: Brazil issues an international arrest warrant for Kangamba on suspicion of leading a gang involved in the trafficking of women for prostitution.