Chaos in the Angolan Military Intelligence and Security Service

A group of 10 generals and 12 colonels in the Angolan Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISM) have been waiting for the last six months to be sworn in to discharge the duties following their appointment by President José Eduardo dos Santos.

The officers, appointed on 19 June 2013, include Lieutenant General Carlos Miguel de Sousa Filipe, who will be serving as SISM deputy chief; Brigadier Pedro Minguela, as head of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) Military Counterintelligence Directorate; and Rear Admiral Domingos Baptista, as head of the Angolan Navy Military Counterintelligence Directorate.

Maka Angola has learned from an unofficial source that the situation has created considerable embarrassment in the directorates to which those generals and senior officers were appointed.

Documentation in the restructured directorates continues to carry only the names of former officers and it is up to the appointees to make decisions and sign on behalf of their predecessors.

The situation has taken on ludicrous overtones in some cases. In posts where former deputy heads have been promoted as heads, and there is a good relationship with the former bosses, there are informal arrangements on the basis of “comradeship and solidarity”, which share responsibilities between appointees and their predecessors. In other cases, dismissed officers have chosen to stay at home, temporarily inactive, until new orders come through.

The following directorates are among those affected: Information and Analysis; Information and Communication Technologies; and Strategic Planning.

A lawyer approached by Maka Angola explained that “in principle appointees must not discharge duties without being sworn into office.

That is an illegal act.”

It is up to the president of the Republic in his capacity as commander in chief to swear new appointees into office, or to delegate that responsibility to General Antonio Jose Maria, the head of SISM.

The lawyer explained that “swearing someone into office is an administrative action involving the appointee and the institution he or she is now representing, and it validates the undertaking made by he new public servant to the institution, without which it will be null and void.”

The political procedure reserved for bodies deemed to be sensitive to national security, like military intelligence, follows two fundamental criteria: First, the exercise of national sovereignty has increasingly become subordinate to the private interests of the president of the Republic and of a very restricted group of generals, members of the government, and of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in addition to certain foreign interests that afford them greater legitimacy and protection. Second, changes to the state defence and security sector are designed to strengthen the parallel defence and security structures which are protected and kept under wraps by the Presidential Intelligence Bureau, the aim being to guarantee of loyalty and subservience to power that is exercised in an arbitrary manner.

In short, the armed forces’ professionalism, cohesion, and the possibility of improved conditions are undermined so as to prevent any eventual coup d’état.

As an example, in spite of the annual allocation of $130 million to SISM, it so far does not even have its own premises. The confusion created by such a situation ensures that officers are more interested in the survival of their own military careers, thereby diverting their attention from national security and sovereignty.

The chorus of fanatical supporters of the MPLA and of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos encourages a blurred line between issues of national sovereignty and their leaders’ private interests by resorting to political violence, economic blackmail, propaganda, and emphasizing their supposed monopoly on patriotism. Those individuals form the human barrier that prevents Angolan society from understanding the serious risks that the president’s erratic behaviour poses to national sovereignty.