Angolan Army Battles Trade in Stolen Guns

The Angolan authorities seem at a loss to know how to react to the discovery that more than seventy AK47 military rifles have gone missing from a security unit stationed at the Petrangol oil refinery.

The shortfall was first discovered back in May at the São Pedro da Barra base in the Petrangol zone. A subsequent military investigation determined that the arms had been smuggled out one by one for sale to a private security firm.

Yet, instead of facing a court martial, the man held responsible, Lieutenant Colonel Ugando Bravo, known as ‘TC Roger’, has simply been transferred to other duties.

The ‘Economic Objective Protection Unit’(known by its Portuguese acronym, UPOE) was set up and stationed at the Petrangol oil refinery in Luanda in the wake of an act of sabotage by South African commandos in November 1981 which resulted in the partial destruction of the refinery. The security forces who had been stationed there at the time of the raid were executed en masse by firing squad.

Until May, ‘TC Roger’, an officer of the Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISM), was in charge of guarding the UPOE weapons store and ensuring the operational readiness of the unit based at the refinery specifically to protect the installation in the event of any military or terror attack.

Given the refinery’s importance to the government, and the seriousness of the crime of selling off the weapons meant to be used to protect it, the military investigators were surprised to learn that ‘TC Roger’, far from facing criminal charges, was merely transferred to a desk job on the Support Team for the Luanda Military Region.

After all, the Law on Military Crimes, stipulates that such a case would lead to the search and recovery of the looted arsenal of weapons and the detention of those involved. And it’s not as though the Head of Military Intelligence and Security Service is renowned for going easy on transgressors.

General António José Maria, better known as General ‘Zé Maria’, a man very close to President José Eduardo dos Santos, has been tireless in his pursuit of others. The case of Major Nando comes to mind: the unfortunate Major was sentenced to nine months in a military cell for having missed a single day of his routine task of taking soup from the mess hall to General Zé Maria’s private residence.

So it remains a mystery as to why no further action has been taken even to try to locate and retrieve the missing AK47s – or to punish the man believed responsible.