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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MPLA Gives Opposition a Beating

As Angola prepares for next year’s general election, reports are already emerging of acts of political violence. Representatives of opposition parties attempting to scrutinize the electoral registration process have alleged they were subjected to intimidation and violence in the village of Luremo, in the northeastern province of Lunda Norte. “Village chief Ngana Mussanga, who is an MPLA member, turned up with 20 young men wielding staves. They slapped my face, and then I was grabbed, thrown to the ground where they held me down by my hands and feet while the chief beat me around the head, and the back.” The victim, UNITA member Pedro Muiungulenu Zambicuari, says the incident took place on September 8. The UNITA man had been assigned to check the electoral registration process. “It was barely 8.30 in the morning when the village chief first showed up. He asked my name and where I was from. […]

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The Tyrant’s Dilemma: Stay? No, Please Don’t

He promised he would step down. But the campaign has already begun to re-elect Angola’s President for the past 37 years. “Comrade President, please continue guiding the destiny of our country, asks the nation.” That’s the slogan plastered across the picture of a smiling José Eduardo dos Santos that has appeared on giant billboards in strategic locations across the capital, Luanda, in the past week. It’s all part of a public relations strategy aimed at persuading both Angola and the rest of the world that the increasingly tyrannical MPLA leader really ought to stay in power. Many Angolans were nourishing the faint hope that Dos Santos might be honorable and dignified enough to keep his word that he would voluntarily and peacefully retire from political life in 2018 (by which time he would have spent 39 years as President of Angola). Clearly they were deluded if they thought that a […]

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Abuse of Power in Angola (Part I): How the MPLA Elite Clears Land for Their Own Use

Earlier this month graphic pictures emerged from Angola of the killing of 14-year-old Rufino António, shot in the head at close range by a soldier enforcing demolitions in the poor neighbourhood of Walale, south of the capital, Luanda. This is not an isolated incident. The Angolan authorities have commonly resorted to sudden mass demolitions of entire neighbourhoods to clear the land for redevelopment, with little or no regard for residents’ legal rights, or even their lives. Sometimes there are legal grounds for these actions, such as slum clearance within the ambit of the Luanda Development Plan – a scheme praised by international urban planners unfamiliar with the reality of how it is being executed. All too often, however, the mass demolitions are ordered by unscrupulous and greedy members of the ruling elite who see the chance to grab choice portions of land for their own ends. Bound by blood to […]

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The Dos Santos Brand Turns Toxic

In Angola it is a crime to speak ill of the President. The man, who for the past 37 years has led the ruling MPLA party (the Peoples’ Movement for the Liberation of Angola) is accustomed to hearing only praise from within his party’s ranks. Yet on the eve of what was expected to be a slickly-organized party congress, aiming to re-establish José Eduardo dos Santos as the party’s sole candidate for President in next year’s elections, there has been an unprecedented public condemnation from a senior party cadre. “The popular appeal of the MPLA – the party of the President and head of state [José Eduardo dos Santos] – is at an all-time low thanks to his ‘shenanigans’. He gives the party a bad name – and when he falls, he will drag the innocent members of the MPLA down with him.” This stunning denunciation from Ambassador Ambrósio Lukoki, […]

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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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Machete Torture: More Human Rights Abuses in Diamond-Rich Region

“I am Angolan!”, the informal diamond digger keeps screaming in pain and in vain, while the guard repeatedly beats him on the palm of his hands with a machete. His citizen’s rights are ignored. As the guard becomes more violent, the victim screams for his mother repeatedly, but his humanity is ignored as well. “Shit! Pardon does not exist”, the guard who is commanding the beatings of up to ten miners, laughs louder. He is known as Bonifácio. Video evidence has emerged of vicious and sadistic beatings recently meted out to informal miners known as ‘garimpeiros’ by private security guards. The assaults took place just weeks ago in the diamond-rich area of north-eastern Angola. The video, which contains harrowing scenes, was filmed on April 21, 2016 in the Dambi area of Cafunfo in the northeastern province of Lunda-Norte.  In unsparing detail, it shows the guards using machetes to intimidate, beat […]

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The Emperor Has no Clothes and the Naked Hunger Strike

The only two females in the Luanda Book Club case, Rosa Conde (29) and Laurinda Gouveia (26), have been on hunger strike since May 8 in protest at their continued detention in Viana prison, pending their appeal against a verdict and prison sentence which have been widely condemned as unfair and part of a political show-trial. They are also protesting against the attacks they suffered on the same day at the hands of dozens of other inmates. “When we were attacked, one of the prison guards who watched the beatings said [to their colleagues] ‘Let them kill themselves’. We are running terrible risks here. We are not safe,” stated Rosa Conde who is serving a sentence of two years and three months. The two young women had also been refusing to wear prison clothing until Rosa Conde collapsed on Wednesday.  She suffers from pneumonia, and was admitted to the prison […]

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