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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Angolan Port Authority Seeks End to Sogester Contract

The Danish multinational giant, Maersk, stands accused of making obscene profits at the expense of Angolan dockworkers amid calls for the contract awarded to its subsidiary, Sogester, to be ripped up. The Port of Namibe says it is struggling to pay its workers because it is powerless to revoke a 2014 contract which gives 90% of income to the port’s commercial operator, Sogester, a joint partnership between the Maersk group’s APM Terminals and a company which is the commercial arm of Angola’s ruling MPLA party. According to the Port of Namibe board chairman, António Samuel, “it has been an enormous struggle to safeguard workers’ pay and keep going on the 10%”. The dockworkers’ union agrees – and says it is high time this contract was torn up. The port authority and union are hoping the government of President João Lourenço (elected in September 2017) will step in to review what […]

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The Empress Has no Clothes

Isabel dos Santos is the woman who once boasted to Forbes magazine that she was Africa’s first female billionaire. Although Angolans knew she owed her fortune to nepotism and wholesale theft from the public purse, Isabel wove an image of herself as an astute global entrepreneur. But her reputation began to unravel along with her business empire after her father José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down as President of Angola last year. As President, Dos Santos had funnelled millions of dollars from the state oil company Sonangol to ‘loans’ to bankroll her businesses. Then, before leaving office, he installed Isabel as the head of Sonangol. The effect was catastrophic. The new President marshalled the evidence and ensured his own position was sufficiently secure before acting. First, Isabel was sacked as the head of Sonangol. Then she was removed, step by step, from each of the lucrative contracts or positions awarded […]

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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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Angola’s J-Lo Talks the Talk, Doesn’t Walk the Walk

On being sworn in as President of Angola last September, João Lourenço vowed he would crack down on the rampant corruption that flourished under his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos. He has, indeed, taken some steps towards honouring that promise. But in reality, those in power continue to benefit from self-awarded perks, favouritism and influence peddling while ignoring conflicts of interest. But is it all just a distraction? On February 12th, Finance Minister Archer Mangueira ordered the sale of five light aircraft owned by the Angolan state: three Beechcraft 1900s and two Twin Otters, as per his ministerial despatch 47/18. It orders the National Director of State Patrimony, Mr Valentim Joaquim Manuel, to draw up contracts for the sale of the aircraft with SJL-Aeronautica, EAPA and Air Jet. Imagine our surprise then to find out that SJL-Aeronautica was set up in 2010 by General Sequeira João Lourenço, the current President’s […]

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Ex-President dos Santos and His Son’s Billion-Dollar Scam

Before agreeing to step aside after 38 years in power, Angola’s former President, José Eduardo dos Santos, made sure he obtained guarantees of permanent immunity from prosecution for any crimes committed during his time in office. For Angola’s ruling party MPLA and lawmakers, it was a pragmatic necessity: how else could Dos Santos be persuaded to step aside? The man had an international reputation as one of Africa’s most zealous kleptocrats, using his position to enrich himself and his extended family. Six months on, however, a complex international investigation into an attempted US $1.5 billion fraud involving his son José Filomeno dos Santos “Zenú” has put Angolans openly discussing whether the Dos Santos family en masse should have those immunity guarantees removed. His son is firmly in the sights of criminal investigators who have documentary evidence that it was his father who oversaw the attempted scam. The Weakest Link As […]

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The Fake Assassination Attempt against Angola’s Vice-President

Why does the president of the Republic, João Lourenço, allow his government to be tarnished with fabricated accusations regarding the supposed attempted murder of his vice-president in the first months of his term? Why would the president allow the National Police and the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) to use a machete as an official torture tool? Why does the president allow the judicial system, especially SIC, to be so inhumane, specializing in forging absurd evidence and incarcerating innocents? Why does João Lourenço allow the involvement of staff members of the Security House of the Presidency in an act of torture to go unpunished? Let us turn to the facts. Five citizens, detained more than a month ago, are accused of the attempted murder of vice-president Bornito de Sousa. The accusation was concocted from a banal discussion about parking the car which the five were in. They were barbarously tortured, filmed […]

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The Half-a-Billion-Dollar Scam of Espírito Santo Bank in Angola

In the plunder that has been carried out in Angola, little has been said about the extraordinary role of Portuguese facilitators – especially bank executives, lawyers and intermediaries – in setting up related operations. Little is also said about the extremely harmful role they play in Angola, while pretending to be above reproach. Maka Angola brings to light the US $518.5 million operation orchestrated in 2013 by José Fernando Faria de Bastos, a Portuguese lawyer living in Angola, and Rui Guerra, a Portuguese citizen and then-CEO of Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA). Let us start on June 28, 2013. On that day, BESA carried out five credit operations to five shell companies totalling US $379 million. This operation financed the purchase of assets of Espírito Santo Commerce (Escom), 66 percent owned by the Espírito Santo Group (GES) of Portugal, and 30 percent by the Portuguese-Angolan citizen Hélder Bataglia. An addendum […]

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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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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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