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 […]

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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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Angolan Opposition Unites to Challenge ‘Illegal’ Election Results

Four Angolan opposition parties have jointly declared that the results of the 23 August election announced by the National Electoral Commission were illegal and unconstitutional. In a joint statement issues on Sunday, UNITA, CASA-CE, PRS and FNLA stated they would not recognize “any results produced on the margins of the law”. The party leaders demanded a recount at provincial level “on the basis of the law and the constitution”. They declared that only three of Angola’s 18 provinces, Cabinda, Uíge and Zaire, had processed the election results in accordance with the Electoral Law. “The supposed count was limited only to checking the spoiled, blank and contested ballots. The process became even more shady with the disappearance of ballot boxes, the emergence of new ballot boxes, the disappearance of votes, and other irregularities,” the opposition leaders declared. The party leaders, who were also the presidential candidates of their respective parties, said […]

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UNITA Says 14 Provincial Results Invalid

Angola’s largest opposition party, UNITA, has declared that 14 of the country’s 18 provinces have not yet delivered results from last week’s elections in accordance with the law. UNITA’s intervention comes a day after the National Election Commission declared that the provincial verification process had been concluded, following voting on 23 August. Yesterday, the Constitutional Court also ruled against a complaint lodged by the Coalition for the Salvation of Angola (CASA-CE), which also ran in the elections. CASA-CE, like UNITA, demanded that CNE tally the votes in each province according to the electoral law. “The provincial verification carried out in terms of [the law] happened only in the provinces of Cabinda, Uíge, Zaire e Malanje,” UNITA’s Political Commission said in a statement issued on Thursday. The statement added that the verification process conducted in two further provinces, Benguela and Moxico, could not be considered conclusive. “In the provinces of Cuanza […]

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Vote Counting in Angola Marred by Irregularities

The Angolan National Electoral Commission (CNE) announced yesterday that it has already processed the tallying of the final results of the August 23 elections in 11 of the 18 provinces, according to its spokesperson, Júlia Ferreira. These are the provinces of Bengo, Benguela, Cabinda, Cuando-Cubango, Cunene, Huíla, Kwanza-Norte, Kwanza-Sul, Luanda, Moxico and Zaire. However, the Angolan opposition parties claim that 11 of the country’s 18 provinces – Bengo, Bié, Cuando-Cubango, Cunene, Huambo, Kwanza-Sul, Luanda, Lunda-Norte, Lunda-Sul, Malanje, Moxico – have still not verified their results as the law requires. This list includes five of the provinces in which the CNE declares the counting is complete: Bengo, Cuando-Cubango, Kwanza-Sul, Luanda, and Moxico. The various provincial electoral commissions have declared that they have completed their task, but the commissioners appointed by opposition parties are refusing to approve the vote tallies from these provinces. According to the list that Maka Angola had access […]

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