Constitutional Challenge to Angola’s New Media Laws

The main Angolan opposition party, UNITA, is launching a legal challenge to the MPLA government’s latest attempt to gag criticism of the regime. In a petition to the Constitutional Court, UNITA argues that specific clauses of the MPLA media law are simply unconstitutional and calls on the Court to issue a ruling to that effect. The Angolan Constitution, rewritten in 2010, affirms the right to freedom of expression under Article 44 stating explicitly “Freedom of the press is guaranteed, and cannot be subjected to any prior censorship of a political, ideological or artistic nature.” It goes on: “The state will ensure pluralism of expression and guarantee different ownership and editorial diversity in the media. UNITA argues that the Constitution does not contemplate the possibility of any law attempting to restrict the freedom of the press. The current legal set-up makes it impossible for any individual or organization other than a […]

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Portuguese Corruption Trial Snares Angola’s Vice President

The net is closing around Angola’s Vice-President, Manuel Vicente, the former CEO of the country’s oil giant Sonangol and a man long accused of being a conduit for the diversion of oil revenues into international business deals linked to the Angolan President, his family and close associates. He faces charges in connection with the alleged suborning of a Portuguese prosecutor. Orlando Figueira, in 2013 to set aside an investigation into money-laundering involving the purchase of a US $4 million luxury apartment in Lisbon. Both the prosecutor and Vicente’s lawyer, Paulo Blanco, have also been indicted on charges of violating court confidentiality regarding the investigation into the Angolan subsidiary (BESA) of the Banco de Espirito Santo (BES), which collapsed in 2014. If proven, then by suborning the prosecutor, the Angolans succeeded in interfering with the course of justice in Portugal to prevent any prosecution in the BESA investigation which, by unravelling […]

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Angola’s Christmas Message to Pesky Journalists: Shut Up or Else!

On the eve of the Christmas celebrations in Angola, one of its most prominent human rights defenders, the investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist Rafael Marques de Morais, received an unexpected greeting: a summons to present himself at the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Services for interrogation about an alleged “insult” against the country’s Attorney General. The “insult”, an alleged slander, related to the publication of evidence showing that business dealings by General João Maria Moreira de Sousa, Angola’s Attorney General, were contravening both the constitution and the law. The official response was not to take action to verify whether or not the Attorney General’s activities might be in breach of the law, but instead to mount a renewed campaign of persecution against Mr Marques de Morais. When information reached Rafael Marques de Morais that the Attorney General was erecting a condominium on land designated for rural purposes, he quite properly sought […]

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Sonangol’s Billion-Dollar Headache

Evidence has reached Maka Angola that Sonangol’s debts to major oil corporations are far in excess of the US $300 million  owed to Chevron as reported last month. Faced with a Sonangol news release that noted the Chevron monies were “under review” prior to payment, other foreign creditors have grown anxious about the multi-million sums they too are owed. Maka Angola has been supplied with figures showing unpaid cash calls to three other oil majors operating in the Angolan oilfields. They reveal that as of October 2016, Sonangol owed its creditors at over one billion US dollars. To date, Sonangol has only effected payments to companies owned by associates of President José Eduardo dos Santos and his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, the current Sonangol President. President dos Santos sacked the previous Sonangol board and installed his daughter back in June, in a move that shocked the global oil industry given […]

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Diamond Barons Sued for Destruction of Farmland

A ‘war’ between diamond mining interests and locals in northeastern Angola that has resulted in the destruction of 402 privately-owned fields of assorted crops in the last year alone, has forced the area’s traditional chiefs, or Sobas, to file suit against the mining conglomerate and six named individuals. The lawsuit, filed today, seeks redress for actions attributed to the Angolan diamond mining conglomerate, Sociedade Mineira do Cuango Lda. (SMC) and five of its managerial team: Artur Jorge Gonçales (President of the Board), Victor Nunes (Logistics and Security Manager), Filipe Luis (Administrative and Financial Manager), Mike Weir (Operations Director) and Firmino Valeriano (Deputy Operations Director). The complaint alleges criminal behaviour, including extortion and theft, and the violation of individuals’ property rights under Article 37 of the Constitution, and demands action by the Attorney General’s office to institute criminal proceedings against those responsible. SMC is accused of ordering the systematic destruction of […]

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Higher Education in Angola is not in Safe Hands

Since Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, the overall number of students in higher education has risen more than tenfold to over 140,000 but have educational standards kept pace? Some suggest they have not; that quantity should not be confused with quality. No less a figure than General João Lourenço, the MPLA Vice-President and Defence Minister, said in a speech to the academic community this month that institutions of higher education should not exist just to train the masses. He referred openly to the need for higher quality in Angola’s institutions of higher education and added that merit should be rewarded. It is remarkable that João Lourenço chose to highlight the concept of merit when this has not been high on the list of attributes required for appointments under José Eduardo dos Santos’s regime. Up to now nepotism, affinity and servile obedience have been more likely to secure an academic […]

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Angola’s Latest Ploy to Silence Critics: A Regulatory Body to Censor Social Media

Angola’s governing MPLA party (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) is gearing up for a tough battle to retain its 40-year grip on power in the face of a rising tide of discontent, swelled by the biting economic consequences of low oil prices and poor governance. Its response is to tighten control by restricting civil liberties – and in particular freedom of information. Ahead of this month’s ruling party congress, the National Assembly has passed a set of four bills which, in effect, hand control (and censorship) of all mass media outlets, including social media and the internet, to a new MPLA-controlled supervisory body: the ‘Entidade Reguladora da Comunicação Social Angolana’ (ERCA) – the Angolan Social Communications Regulatory Body. The aim, says Maka Angola’s award-winning editor, Rafael Marques de Morais, is to “control and censor any attempt by political activists to use social media and the Internet to blow […]

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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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Rescuing the Angolan Economy

President José Eduardo dos Santos admits Angola is running out of money but he has yet to outline any sort of rescue plan.  Is Angola teetering on the precipice of economic disaster?  Or is it already in the abyss? In spite of international entreaties to diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on imports, the MPLA government has so far failed to make meaningful changes to ensure self-sufficiency.   So if the national bank has run out of money to pay for imported goods, what is the alternative? How can the government guarantee a continued supply of food to the Angolan people?  Are they to starve? Can the President tell us where he expects to find the resources to avert calamity? With Angola already having to service billion dollar loans, the President may have run out of collateral. Clearly his generation of governing officials won’t have to bear the burden of […]

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Chevron’s Misplaced Endorsement of Nepotism in Angola

What must Chevron’s CEO John Watson be thinking as he sits in his office in San Ramon, California and ponders the future of his Angolan subsidiary, the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company Ltd (Cabgoc)? How much longer does he estimate that he needs to keep on the good side of José Eduardo dos Santos’s corrupt and kleptocratic MPLA government to ensure Cabgoc can continue to operate?  Is he hedging his bets?  Or is he staking Chevron’s African corporate future on the faint chance that the Dos Santos family and their acolytes will not be brought to justice for their crimes? While oil industry analysts around the globe were divided about the merit of the President’s nepotistic appointment of his daughter Isabel to head the restructured Angolan state oil company, Sonangol,  Watson’s man in Angola, the Cabgoc director John Baltz, was telling a US-Angola Chamber of Commerce conference that he was “optimistic” […]

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