Lifelong Immunity from Prosecution for the President

It is right and proper that anyone who has served as head of state or government should be accorded due honors upon exiting the job. The peaceful transition of power is a cornerstone of democracy and those who have reached the pinnacle and who willingly step aside when their time is up, are rightfully guaranteed some special treatment for the rest of their days. It’s a mark of respect for their service. With the prospect of a voluntary exit for José Eduardo dos Santos, who has held power in Angola for an astonishing 37 years, few would be so churlish as to deny the man who likes to call himself “the Architect of Peace” the consolations of orderly retirement. What is customary around the world? No doubt his name will emblazon important civic works. Perhaps he is granted an annual pension and a security detail for life. Perhaps the state […]

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Time to Say Goodbye

Thank you, José Eduardo dos Santos, for your decision to step down as President of Angola after 38 years. It’s a decision that gives us all hope for the future. Only Robert Mugabe and Teodoro Obiang Nguema remain of the veteran African tyrants who for so long have choked the life out of their countries. Could your decision inspire them to follow suit and arrange a peaceful transition of power? Naturally, there’s a great deal of speculation as to why you have finally come to the realization that it was time to hand the baton to another. Some say it’s because of poor health. Others say your authority had been undermined by the increasing number of corruption scandals attached to your government. Whatever the reason, the decision is sound and must be as great a relief to you as it is to the Angolan people. Before you go, it’s probably […]

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The Death Knell for Freedom of the Press in Angola

January 23, 2017 will go down in the annals of Angola as the day on which freedom of the press died. This was the day Angola’s new media legislation was published – a basket of five individual laws introducing a regulating body and stringent controls on journalists, the internet, the press, radio and television broadcasting. The new media laws have been rushed into being six months ahead of crucial presidential and parliamentary elections this year and it is feared their purpose is to ensure that the only information allowed to reach the Angolan public, toes the ruling-MPLA’s party line. In a page straight out of the German Nazi propaganda playbook dreamt up by Carl Schmitt, the new rules and regulations are so general and ambiguous that their interpretation depends on case-by-case ruling by the minister, a judge or similar. Freedom of the Press henceforth will depend on the individual whim […]

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The Tyrant’s Dilemma: Stay? No, Please Don’t

He promised he would step down. But the campaign has already begun to re-elect Angola’s President for the past 37 years. “Comrade President, please continue guiding the destiny of our country, asks the nation.” That’s the slogan plastered across the picture of a smiling José Eduardo dos Santos that has appeared on giant billboards in strategic locations across the capital, Luanda, in the past week. It’s all part of a public relations strategy aimed at persuading both Angola and the rest of the world that the increasingly tyrannical MPLA leader really ought to stay in power. Many Angolans were nourishing the faint hope that Dos Santos might be honorable and dignified enough to keep his word that he would voluntarily and peacefully retire from political life in 2018 (by which time he would have spent 39 years as President of Angola). Clearly they were deluded if they thought that a […]

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Meddling With Angola’s Electoral Register is Unconstitutional

Why does Angola need a new Electoral Registration Law?   Particularly one which would transfer control of the electoral register from the independent National Electoral Commission to the Ministry of Territorial Administration under the tutelage of Bornito de Sousa, one of the President’s staunch supporters in the ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola)? It’s a contentious move both in political and legal terms. Politically, it attributes to the party in power, the government of the day, the power to determine who can, and who can’t, vote. Legally, it violates the Angolan Constitution which explicitly attributes oversight of the electoral process to an independent body.  Article 107, Clause 1 of the Angolan Constitution states: “The electoral processes are organized by independent electoral administrative bodies whose structure, function, composition and competence are defined by law”. It is an internationally-accepted principle that the “electoral process” includes the compilation and upkeep of […]

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Dictator Dos Santos Going, Going… But Not Just Yet

It is rare for an African dictator to give up power voluntarily.  Thus, on March 11, when Angola’s President announced that he would retire from public life in 2018, the news reverberated across the world.  If he holds true to his word (and that is a big “if”) by the time José Eduardo dos Santos steps down he will have held power for a staggering 39 years. If he is preparing to go, why then is the President employing tactics straight out of the despot’s rulebook?  Why is he casting himself as the ‘victim’ of an imaginary coup plot to justify purges that further embed a culture of fear in Angola? Why would a politician on his way out, bring global ridicule upon himself and his regime with trumped-up charges and a show trial? Seventeen young dissidents are currently standing trial on bogus charges of plotting a rebellion and attempting […]

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From Being Bullied to a Dictator’s Nightmare

Writing has been my life’s passion and my curse too.  In my teens, I was bullied for being an avid reader and for wanting to express my opinions as informed by my readings. I vividly remember being taunted with the idea that “too much reading will bring you madness, and disgrace.” I had to endure periodic assaults. Each time I returned home crying, sobbing or bruised my mother would offer me two choices only. First, she would advise me to play by myself in the safety of our home. Second, she would warn me that if I went out to play with the bullies, I better return home quiet with no complaints or I would have to face her punishment for not knowing how to defend myself, and insisting on putting myself in harm’s way. As I grew, I set up a makeshift gym, with weights made out of tin […]

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The War on Social Media and the Trial of Activists

Following the president’s outline of his war on social media, Judge Januário Domingos is making history by being the first to hear a case of a political joke on Facebook that has displeased the regime. Yesterday, the judge of the Luanda Provincial Court questioned a Catholic priest, Father Jacinto Pio Wakussanga, for being part of an imaginary government, generated in a playful Facebook discussion, as the head of the National Electoral Commission. In court, the priest told the judge that he had heard through social media about this imaginary government and thought it was just a joke. Last May, a lawyer Albano Pedro set up an open online forum on his Facebook page to entice discussants to come up with names for what would be an ideal government of national salvation. The leader of the millennial religious sect “The Light of the Day”, José Julino Kalupeteka, who has been in […]

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President Dos Santos Wants Dictatorial Control of the Net

Angola’s President for the past 36 years, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has used his traditional end of year speech to announce legal measures to control social media and the internet, which he feels have been offending and humiliating him. Announcing his main projects for the New Year, the President ignored the famine currently affecting residents in the southern province of Cunene along with the many other challenges faced by the Angolan people.  Instead, he is prioritizing further ways to silence the growing criticism of his increasingly-dictatorial regime. This is equally the case with Angola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’, Isabel dos Santos, the President’s billionaire daughter.  This Christmas she had a  “Let them Eat Cake” moment, choosing to spend US $2 million on bringing the Anaconda rapper Nicki Minaj to Luanda rather visiting Cunene in her role as president of the Angolan Red Cross to assist local communities severely affected by the drought. Social […]

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Another Day in Court

Across the street, a police camera van monitors the movements outside the courthouse. The trial of the 17 activists charged with plotting a rebellion and attempting to assassinate the president by discussing literature on nonviolence, has attracted many other activists who want to express their support for the defendants. There is also another element of sophistication in this trial. The Military Intelligence and Security Service of the Angolan Armed Forces has deployed 80 officers to the trial. Half of them pose as either unknown relatives of the defendants or law students to fill the courtroom and, thus, enable the police to keep the unwanted activists, diplomats, observers and public away, with the excuse of the courtroom lacking space. The other half is deployed in the vicinity. Each defendant has the right to have two relatives in the courtroom, to whom the police issue credentials. No credentials no entry. That is […]

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