The Logic of Democracy in Angola

I am reading this and I can’t believe it. So I read it again: “When people, including some politicians, say that there is a dictatorial regime in Angola, this is not true”, says Paulo de Carvalho, professor of the Faculty of Social Science of the Agostinho Neto University, in Luanda. He made this statement at a conference organised by the Centre for African Studies of the Institute of Political and Social Science in Lisbon (ISCSP), under the theme “Democracy and citizens’ rights in Angola”. In order to substantiate his belief, Paulo de Carvalho referred to an event which had taken place a while back in the Mário Soares Foundation in Lisbon, where the journalist and human rights activist had criticised the Angolan regime, and the scholar had replied to him thus: “If there was a dictatorial regime in Angola, you, my friend, Rafael Marques, would not be here speaking on our behalf, rather we would be crying at your graveside”.

This story comes from the Lusa news agency, and has popped up on several social media sites since last Wednesday. Let us assume that the statement is true. If it is true, the sociologist Paulo de Carvalho, with his presumptuous train of thought, has opened the door to a complete reinterpretation of the History of Humanity. In that case, let us examine the following:

Agostinho Neto was at the mercy of Salazar. Nevertheless, Salazar did not have him killed – therefore, the Salazar regime was a democracy. A buoyant democracy, it may be said, since Salazar could also have been killed, amongst so many other important dissenting voices, such as Álvaro Cunhal, Mário Soares, etc., etc.

Pinochet could have had Pablo Neruda killed (overtaking by a few days the prostate tumour which eventually took the life of the great poet). Nevertheless, he didn’t do it. Therefore, Pinochet’s regime was a democracy.

Dilma Roussef, the current president of Brazil, was imprisoned in the early ‘seventies by the military regime which took over that country in 1964. Nevertheless, the military did not kill her. Therefore, that particular military junta was a democracy.

The assassination of the youths Isaías Cassule and Alves Kamulingue, in May 2012, by the Intelligence and Security Services of the State (SINSE), is a detail that doesn’t seem to bother the sociologist Paulo de Carvalho. According to this strange logic, if a democrat manages to voice his opinion without being killed, then there is democracy – even when all the other voices have been silenced.

Yes, Salazar had Humberto Delgado (and so many others) killed. But he spared Mário Soares. Therefore, the Salazar regime was a democracy. Yes, Pinochet had the singer/songwriter Victor Jara assassinated, but he spared Neruda. Therefore, the Pinochet regime was a democracy.

What about shame?!

Is there no shame? I go back and read the Lusa story again, and I am ashamed of him, of the sociologist Paulo de Carvalho, I am ashamed of the president, José Eduardo dos Santos, I am ashamed of all those people who dare to wag a finger at a man like Rafael Marques to remind him that he is still alive, that he could be dead, but is still alive, and that he owes his life to the democratic spirit of those who have the power to kill people – and don’t do it.

In a democracy, it is not done to wag a finger at those who disagree with us to remind them that they may carry on, that they will not die for their convictions. In a democracy, to allow others to disagree is not a sign of tolerance (or affection) – rather it is the essence of the system. The quality of a democracy may be measured by the diversity of freely expressed opinions.

This is why there is no democracy in Angola.