How Much Longer, Attorney General?

How much longer, João Maria, how much longer do we have to put up with you?

The Attorney General of the Republic of Angola parades through the streets of Luanda with not an ounce of shame at the conflict of interest arising from holding public office while profiting from business dealings that have come his way only because of his position.

What legal and moral conflicts? He is not just a shareholder in different companies, he has also served as a manager and legal consultant (e.g. in Prestcom) in spite of the constitutional prohibition on second jobs for office-holders.

Additionally, General João Maria de Sousa has neglected the fundamental and basic premise of his job: to prosecute breaches of the law. He fails to investigate legal transgressions by members of the government, turns a blind eye to incontrovertible evidence of corruption, and sits on his hands when presented with egregious violations of human rights in Angola.

His predecessor was just as useless. Back in 1999 the Attorney General was Domingos Culolo. On the basis of an interview I had given to Rádio Ecclésia on October 13 that year, he branded me a “recidivist”, and had me unlawfully detained, three days later, even though I had never been accused of, or charged with, any offence or crime.

What had I said? This: “We are faced with an authoritarian regime, an authoritarian leader”. After 42 days in jail, 11 of them in solitary confinement at the Central Forensic Laboratory, I was formally accused of having defamed and caused “injury” to the President, for having described him as corrupt and a dictator in “O Baton da Ditadura” (The Lipstick of Dictatorship). I was also accused of having defamed and caused “injury” to the Attorney General.

Seventeen years on, I am again the defendant in a criminal process, accused of having caused “injury” to the Attorney General. This is because I exposed João Maria de Sousa as the businessman behind the construction of a condominium building on land sold for rural use in Porto-Amboim, Kwanza-Sul. For this offence, I was summoned for questioning on December 27.

In 2013, along with Alexandre Solombe, I made a formal complaint that on September 20 that year we had been illegally detained, physically assaulted and threatened with being shot dead by officers from the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR) at their headquarters. We were beaten and kicked mercilessly by their commander while another agent filmed this humiliating assault for the amusement of their superiors. I later learned, and made public, that this assault was sanctioned and supervised by the Interior Minister, Ângelo Tavares.

While state agents are apparently allowed to kick the crap out of me, what recourse is available to those of us who are “offended” by the actions of General João Maria de Sousa and the like?

To this day, there has been no official investigation. The Attorney-General did nothing. Our formal complaint was simply ignored. The Criminal Investigation Service (at the time known by the initials DNIC, since renamed the SIC) did not want to know. Hardly surprising, as I have repeatedly exposed their barbaric practices, including acts of torture and extrajudicial murders carried out by SIC operatives.

It is thanks to the appalling state of Angola’s legal institutions that Justice is reduced to the law of the jungle, a far cry from the lawful, democratic state Angola pretends to be.

You may recall that in 2013 I also called for an inquiry into the illegal activities of the Vice-President, Manuel Vicente, and his links to China-Sonangol and a man named Sam Pa. Those activities resulted in the loss of thousands of millions of dollars to the public purse, causing almost incalculable damage to our country.

China put Sam Pa in jail. Apparently, according to recent public statements by our President’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos (installed by her father as President of the Board of state oil company Sonangol) his downfall was linked to the lack of accounting and financial control over the state oil company during the period in which it was run by Manuel Vicente.

And yet, Manuel Vicente is not under investigation – to date no case file has been opened, nor any action of any kind has been undertaken by the Attorney General whose specific duty it is to act in such cases.

Similarly, in February 2016, I denounced Sindika Dokolo, the husband of Isabel dos Santos (and thereby the son-in-law of Angola’s President) for the crime of land grabbing, submitting to the Attorney General’s office sufficient evidence for him to order an investigation. To date, no investigation has been launched. Once again the Attorney General has taken no action.

I could go on citing more and more instances of negligence and inaction by the Attorney General, whose lamentable record continues to overshadow his Ministry.

But when it’s personal, General João Maria de Sousa, is quick to act. In August 2014 he banned activist José Gama from leaving the country because he believed him to be linked to Club-K, a website which had published what General de Sousa considered an “insulting” report about him.

And once again the General has shown he can act quickly when he chooses, summoning me to make a statement as the defendant in a criminal process which he launched immediately after I had made his business affairs public.

Sadly, we are forced to conclude that Angola has an Attorney General who can open criminal processes with speed when he feels personally offended, but not, as we have seen time and again, when it’s a matter of crimes against the nation committed by his cronies. How else can we describe his behaviour other than as an abuse of power and a flagrant violation of the ethical rules which should govern the work of the Attorney General?

So to paraphrase Cicero in his address to the Roman Senate: For how much longer will you try our patience? Apparently, General João Maria de Sousa’s chosen battlefield is to subject his opponents to criminal proceedings in a court of law. Excellent choice. We are ready to present our evidence in a court of law as much as to the court of public opinion. Let battle commence.