Unmasking the MPLA’s Very Own Apostle

Angolans witness every day that rewards flow to those who are faithful to the ruling party, the MPLA. Yet many in this nominally Christian nation might have hoped that men of the cloth would be immune to the lure of political corruption. Apparently not so.

How else to explain Reverend Antunes Huambo’s recent good fortune? One day he happens to mention during a TV debate that Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Within days, the MPLA Governor for Luanda, General Higino Carneiro, appoints Reverend Huambo to the position of Administrator of the Urban District of the University City.

Reverend Huambo’s devotion to the MPLA, which has held power for the past 41 years, can be assessed from remarks he made in December: “The red in the MPLA flag symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ”. And this: “The MPLA is the party blessed by God to govern Angola.”

Rewarding the Reverend with a sinecure is the very least the MPLA, a former Marxist-Leninist party, can do given his real role: as the party’s political commissar tasked with delivering the Evangelical vote to the MPLA in this year’s election.

Corraling the evangelical vote

Antunes Huambo is a self-professed Evangelical Christian who was a member of the Pentecostal Church before accepting what he calls “his mission to control more than 900 “illegal” churches in Angola. This is the term given to the extreme protestant churches that have mushroomed all over Angola amongst those disenchanted with the Roman Catholic Church imposed on Angola by the Portuguese.

Reverend Huambo says he was “chosen” to lead the Angolan Christian Coalition Church (ICCA: Igreja de Coligação Cristã de Angola). Not, however, by his God. Antunes Huambo has for many years served another master: the MPLA. He was one of the original members of the MPLA Central Committee’s Office of Civil Society and Citizenship, in charge of mobilizing religious leaders and their respective flocks. What he calls his “mission” came about thanks to a presidential decree issued on September 9th, 2009 to create an inter-ministerial commission to study how to approach the religious ‘phenomenon’ of the rise of evangelical Protestantism in Angola.

In a radio interview, Antunes Huambo said he was a native of Kuando-Kubango, of royal lineage, who earned a reputation for cutting off the heads of Portuguese colonialists. He casts himself in the role of a royal priest illuminating the truth path – but also capable of murdering his enemies.

‘Reverend’ Huambo makes no attempt to disguise his party affiliation and boasts that in his church coalition there are no pastors with affiliation to any of the opposition parties: “Not UNITA, not the FNLA, not CASA-CE. There are none. Every single one is a card-carrying member of the MPLA party. And for as long as the MPLA is in power, we will be the agents to mobilize all the religious leaders to collaborate with this party that holds power.”

He has been quite candid about his objective: to secure the Evangelical vote for the party that has ruled Angola since independence in 1974. He preaches that he is both a “son of God and of the MPLA in every fibre of his being” and his message is that the MPLA is God’s chosen party to lead Angola.

In what is an election year for the MPLA, his message to thousands of parishioners is this: God loves the strong and it is important to vote for the strongest, that is the MPLA and not for weaklings like (the opposition parties) UNITA or CASA-CE. All who would obey God must obey the MPLA.”