Rafael Marques Receives the Press Freedom Award

(Acceptance speech for the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Hero Award received on June 22 in Abuja, Nigeria.)   When the news of this award reached Angola, many of my countrymen and women posted images of me as Wakanda’s Black Panther on their social media. This award is not for me. It mirrors the hopes of many Angolans that changes will not come simply from political decision-making, but from a growing awareness amongst and stand from civil society. Looting of the state, human rights abuses, corruption and political contempt for the suffering of the people are the main ills of the Angolan society where the powerful take away what rightfully belongs to everyone and trample on others’ lives. The investigative journalism I’ve engaged in through Maka Angola in a hostile environment has spearheaded the renewal of hopes that among ordinary Angolans a force for good can be reckoned with. […]

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The Angolan Sovereign Fund and the Arch-Fraudster

When historians come to write the unexpurgated story of corruption in Angola, the chapter on how dual Swiss-Angolan national Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais enriched himself from the Angolan Sovereign Fund is sure to be a page-turner. Bastos de Morais is the silent partner of the former Sovereign Fund’s chairman, José Filomeno dos Santos (Zenú), the hitherto-untouchable son of former President José Eduardo dos Santos who turned Angola into a kleptocracy during 38 years in power. The US $5 billion Sovereign Fund was created to stimulate economic diversity – a hedge against the future when Angola’s rich oil reserves run out. Zenú and his buddy Jean-Claude are alleged to have treated the Sovereign Fund as their personal piggy bank and both face charges of fraud and money-laundering. Zenú’s father used also set up the Angolan Venture Capital Fund (in Portuguese: Fundo Activo de Capital de Risco Angolano, FACRA) in 2012. Under […]

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Prosecuting the Messenger, Absolving the Corrupt

Angola’s public prosecutor, Pedro Pederneira, calls for my conviction for the crimes of insulting a public authority and speaking against the state security (June 15). He wants me in jail for writing that former President José Eduardo dos Santos protected the corrupt. This is the crime against the state security. The public prosecution office recently charged Dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno dos Santos, and his accomplices for the looting of US $500 million from Angola’s central bank. The looting had been authorized by the father weeks before he stepped down in September last year. Last January, I was the very first to expose the whole scam at home. So, where is the crime against the state security? I supplied the court with plenty of evidence on past cases in which Mr. Dos Santos engaged and protected the corrupt, and the then-attorney general never replied to many of my formal complaints […]

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The Trial: The Plaintiff’s Confusing Complaints

Finally, on May 21, 2018, the plaintiff appeared in court, some three months after the scheduled start of the trial. The former attorney general of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa (2007-2017), had one condition: The trial had to be held in camera during his testimony. It would no longer be in the office of the attorney general, as he initially petitioned. Judge Josina Falcão explained that it would be impossible to keep the plaintiff’s testimony a secret, because the two journalists on trial would reveal it to the public. She stressed that the General would have to sit on the witness stand like anyone else. No special chair for him. As he entered the courtroom, he told his security detail to take their seats. His lawyer signaled him to keep them out, and he obliged. He was in an uncomfortable position, his hands trembled throughout the proceedings. The […]

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My Trial and The Law to Allow Money Laundering

I am due back in court on May 21 for exposing corruption. The corrupt former attorney general of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa, is the plaintiff. He has failed to appear in court for the past two months. He even demanded that the trial be moved from the courtroom to the Office of the Attorney General, claiming immunity and privileges. But on April 25, he fled to Portugal and became, for the third time, a runaway plaintiff. There is a great irony in this trial that exposes the farcical anti-corruption discourse of President João Lourenço. On May 17, his ruling MPLA, in power for the past 42 years, passed the Law for the Repatriation of Capital. This new law might as well be aptly named the Law on Money Laundering, for that is what it is. According to this law, those who have siphoned off funds from the […]

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A Journey for Rights and Dignity: A Participant’s Observation

Note: This text was initially delivered as the Hormuud Lecture of the African Studies Association, at its annual meeting in Chicago, on November 18, 2017.   Within days after delivering this lecture, I will be publishing the first report focused exclusively on extrajudicial killings in Angola. These executions were carried out in the past year by the Angolan Criminal Investigation Service operatives across the two most populated neighborhoods of the capital Luanda, namely Cacuaco and Viana. In the report there are more than 100 victims identified and additional unidentified individuals suspected of being delinquents or simply innocent. During my investigation I discovered the existence of an open field, next to a primary school in Viana (Escola Primária e do 1º Ciclo do Ensino Secundário nº 5113), that locals called the slaughterhouse or more commonly the death camp. The state operatives usually took their victims to this slaughterhouse in broad daylight. […]

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When You Can’t Shoot, Sue!

Recently, the Angolan ruling party MPLA proposed, in Parliament, that the outgoing President and Vice-President be given absolute immunity from prosecution for any crimes they committed while in office. Consequently, within days the regime has launched new indictments against whistle-blower and human rights defender, Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael Marques de Morais is the fearless, award-winning editor of the online news site Maka Angola. It focuses on  investigating and publishing citizens’ complaints about the all-too-common cases of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations in oil-rich Angola. He has been a thorn in the side of Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself, his family and his loyal supporters in the ruling MPLA party. Meanwhile, only permitting a trickle of the country’s oil wealth to be used for the benefit of the people he was supposed to serve. Outside Angola, the […]

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All the President’s Children

Are you suffering from corruption fatigue? Yes, it gets to us all. There is just so much of it. Everywhere. Shameless, unethical, immoral, illegal, self-serving behavior is rampant. From the USA to North Korea, it seems few countries are immune to the self-enriching predations of the “one-percenters”. So how should we react to the news that the jobless, student, twenty-something year-old child of an ageing African dictator threw down €500,000 on a charity bid just so he could be photographed alongside some Hollywood stars like Will Smith? Before you yawn and turn the page, consider this. While this pampered princeling was quaffing champagne at the AMFAR gala in Cannes, dozens of his fellow countrymen of all ages were dying unnecessarily for lack of the most basic medicine and medical equipment. That’s because his country’s oil wealth has been siphoned off year after year, leaving little in the state budget for […]

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A London Law Firm Won’t Stop Us Exposing Those Who Swindle Angola

My job is to investigate and expose human rights abuses and large-scale corruption in Angola. It’s not just my job – I have dedicated my life to this fight for justice in my native land. Inevitably this makes me a target for harassment by the current regime and the judicial system it controls, such as the Criminal Investigation Service (Serviço de Investigação Criminal – SIC) and the Office of Attorney-General of the Republic (Procuradoria-Geral da República – PGR). These minor irritations are part and parcel of the kind of work done by social justice activists the world over. Abroad, in Western democracies such as Portugal, people are often surprised that the Angolan government, which has been repeatedly branded as a dictatorship, doesn’t use violence to the same extent as other dictatorial regimes to silence critics. Perhaps they are unaware that extrajudicial execution is a commonplace event in Angola. I am […]

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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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