Family of Former Angolan President at War

The controversial former President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, is reportedly close to death at the private Teknon clinic in Barcelona[1] while family members fight over who has the right to switch off the machines keeping him alive. Amid unconfirmed reports that the 79-year-old former head of state is brain dead, the right of his wife, Ana Paula Lemos dos Santos, to take decisions as his next of kin is challenged by some of his children. His daughter, Welwitschia dos Santos, wants a full police investigation into what she alleges was “attempted homicide, criminal negligence, a failure to render assistance and a breach of medical confidentiality”. An official statement released “on behalf of the family”, late last week, stated that the former President had suffered a cardiac and respiratory arrest after falling downstairs at his Barcelona residence. This account is disputed by Welwitschia, known as ‘Tchizé’, who has instructed […]

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Time for Truth and Reconciliation in Angola

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the terrifying events of May 27th, 1977, in which the governing MPLA purged tens of thousands of its former comrades in arms. Amnesty International estimates at least 30,000 were murdered. Angolans who were alive then refer only obliquely to the massacre as “o 27 de Maio”, the day and month standing for events that cannot be named. The official version released by the ruling MPLA stated that it had been forced to defend itself against an attempted coup by a faction in the party. Inconvenient facts were buried along with the victims or locked away in the minds of survivors. The reign of terror unleashed on the dissident faction (and anyone connected with them) silenced internal dissent for decades. So many have suffered from “not knowing”, so many died over these 45 years still tortured by the inexplicable disappearance of sons and daughters. In […]

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Misery and Magic Fuel Mayhem in Cafunfo

‘MISERY AND MAGIC FUEL MAYHEM IN CAFUNFO’: A new book from Angolan journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques reveals why a supposedly ‘peaceful protest’ in a diamond-rich but dirt-poor north-eastern town erupted into bloody violence and shocked the nation. (Read full book here.)  Amid public outrage, there were claims that the security forces had used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators – but the truth lay elsewhere. “Within a day of the news of terrible bloodshed during a protest march in the diamond-mining town of Cafunfo, some people had already drawn conclusions,” says Rafael Marques.  “It took me months of investigation to get to the truth.” The undisputable facts were these:  when participants in a banned march clashed with security forces in Cafunfo on January 30th, 2021, at least a dozen people were killed and many more were injured.  Two members of the security forces were lucky to survive a […]

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Angola: When the Wolves can Dance with the Goats

This is an edited version of the presentation made at the Conference: A Celebration of Mandela’s Legacy and a Reflection on Democracy and Good Governance in Africa.   I am honored to return to the European Parliament as a guest of the Socialists and Democrats Group, for Africa Week. This meeting is special – it coincides with the centenary of the birth of one of Africa’s most celebrated leaders, Nelson Mandela. So it is a fitting day on which we take the opportunity to pay homage to his wise legacy and share our views on democracy and good governance. In Africa, what counts as democracy and good governance? The definition of these two concepts has spawned many political arguments – not to mention an entire industry of scholarship. In homage to Mandela, and with regard to the relationship between rulers and the ruled on the African continent, allow me to […]

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Lourenço’s “Flying Palace” and a Coconut Head

Following his 11-day European tour, Angolan president, João Lourenço, arrived home with a staggering flight bill. He spent several million dollars on a US $74,000 an hour luxurious “flying palace” that transported him the whole time, while preaching anti-corruption at home. The distinguished Ghanaian economist and activist, George Ayittey, has a name for this kind of a leader: a coconut head. For Ayittey, a coconut head is a leader, who, rather than run his country ruins it through folly and depraved indifference to the suffering of ordinary people. Many Angolans saw the social media images of the world’s only private US $350 million Boeing Dreamliner 787 VVIP ostentatiousness. Owned by the Chinese  HNA Group, this plane is the world’s largest luxury business charter. Few wanted to match it with the plane that took President Lourenço to state visits in France and Belgium, as well as a private visit to Spain. […]

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Behind the Smoke Screen: An Authoritarian New President

After the 2017 elections, the hopes ordinary Angolans placed on President João Lourenço were so high that many regarded him as a gift from God. Next September, his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos, will finally step down from the leadership of the ruling MPLA, after 39 years. The combined imperial powers of the country’s presidency and of the MPLA will make João Lourenço the absolute ruler of Angola, and it does not bode well for the country. The political partisanship of the army and the militarization of justice are two troubling trends seen since Lourenço took office. Both need to be addressed urgently before he gets comfortable with absolute power. Initially, President Lourenço enjoyed a surge of popularity thanks to a strong anti-corruption stance. He fired his predecessor’s children from key positions, and ditched some other rotten apples. He also allowed for some other senior officials to be publicly named […]

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A New Angolan President

On September 21 we will have a new president, after 38 years with José Eduardo dos Santos. The National Electoral Commission has named João Lourenço president-elect, without legally validating the votes in 15 of the 18 provinces. The MPLA, already in power for 42 years will continue to rule for a further five-year term. Anyone who things that the law is worth when MPLA’s leaders’ interests are at stake, is mistaken. It is worth taking a look back at the history of presidential power in Angola and its popular legitimacy. In 1975, Agostinho Neto became president through the unilateral declaration of independence, after expelling the other liberation movements, FNLA (led by Holden Roberto) and UNITA (led by Jonas Savimbi), from Luanda. The three movements had formed a transitional government, and the process of declaring independence ought to have happened only after elections were held. Instead, the most cunning and strategic […]

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Angolan Vote Count Flouted The Rules

Members of Angola’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) have described how the legal procedures for collecting and tabulating the results of Wednesday’s election were flouted by officials who reported favorable results to the MPLA, with no indication of how these results were calculated. Opposition leaders have accused MPLA of inventing the results. The reports of malpractice come as opposition parties release the results of parallel counts, calculated by adding up the results posted at individual polling stations. These parallel counts show the MPLA in first place, but without an outright majority. The CNE began to announce the preliminary election results on Thursday afternoon, before results from the provinces had been approved either at local level or by the National Counting Center. According to the numbers the CNE announced, the MPLA won a majority with 64.57%, more than double the total of UNITA, which was in second place with 24.4%. CASA-CE took […]

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Angolan Muslims Denounce Human Rights Violations

Aisha Lopes, the fashion designer, and her husband Angelica Bernardo da Costa (also known as Mujahid Kenyata) are Angolan nationals who converted to Islam in 1996.   Aisha, a diabetic, was nursing her 26-day-old infant delivered via high-risk Caesarean surgery when security forces raided the family’s apartment at 5 am on December 2 nd , 2016.  More than 20 armed officers from the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) and the security branch burst in and detained her and her baby, along with her 39-year-old husband. Aisha says they ransacked the apartment, seizing computers, phones, more than 200 books, the couple’s bank cards and all the personal documents belonging to the couple.   “They even took my medical reports. They did not leave a single sheet of paper. “ “We are poor and the agents mocked us, saying that the head of the terrorists in Angola had almost nothing of worth in […]

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Refugees: A Sore Point for Dos Santos and Kabila

More than 30,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are housed in two temporary reception camps, Kakanda and Mussunga, in Lunda-Norte province. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that about 500 refugees are arriving in these camps each day. Congolese citizens are continuing to cross the border to escape the current conflict in the Kasai region, which erupted in April last year. Last April, in addition to the refugees, around 180 armed men from the Congolese armed forces and police also escaped from the clashes between government forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia, according to the data this website received from the local authorities. The same sources say that more than 100 members of the Congolese forces managed to escape the control of the defence and security forces, and ‘disappeared’ in the Angolan town of Dundo, while the rest were repatriated. In the same month, […]

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