Lifelong Immunity from Prosecution for the President

It is right and proper that anyone who has served as head of state or government should be accorded due honors upon exiting the job. The peaceful transition of power is a cornerstone of democracy and those who have reached the pinnacle and who willingly step aside when their time is up, are rightfully guaranteed some special treatment for the rest of their days. It’s a mark of respect for their service. With the prospect of a voluntary exit for José Eduardo dos Santos, who has held power in Angola for an astonishing 37 years, few would be so churlish as to deny the man who likes to call himself “the Architect of Peace” the consolations of orderly retirement. What is customary around the world? No doubt his name will emblazon important civic works. Perhaps he is granted an annual pension and a security detail for life. Perhaps the state […]

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All Aboard the Gravy Train

Angola’s gravy train has been rumbling along one set of tracks for the past 37 years, with all-encompassing corruption tainting the ruling MPLA party under President José Eduardo dos Santos. Those at the apex of the pyramid have diverted billions of dollars from the economy to their own bank accounts, while ensuring the loyalty of those beneath them by dispensing cash, goods and favors as needed. With just over two months to go to the presidential election that will see a change of leadership, members of the National Assembly (Angola’s parliament) are being given a sign that it will be ‘business as usual’. The National Assembly is chaired by veteran MPLA politburo member, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos “Nandó”. Nandó is a rather sinister character with a smile likened to that of a cat which has just devoured its prey. His official job titles (police chief, Interior Minister, Prime […]

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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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Supersonic Nepotism: Illegalities at the Speed of Light

Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, has just appointed his daughter Isabel dos Santos as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the state oil giant, Sonangol.  He had already appointed her half-brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, back in 2012 as Chairman of the Board of the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund.  This means that the country’s sovereign fund and the state’s main source of income are now both in the hands of children of the President. In plain English, this is the very dictionary definition of nepotism: ‘the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them top jobs’.  No doubt there will be many analyses and critiques of Angola’s particular brand of nepotism but from the strictly legal point of view there is one indisputable conclusion to be drawn:  President dos Santos’s actions are unconstitutional and illegal. Unconstitutional and illegal The Angolan […]

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Crashing Oil Prices, Propaganda and the Angolan Recipe for Disaster

Throughout the Angolan capital, Luanda, strategically located billboards announce a country being happily stewarded through development by the government. “Building a prosperous Angola based on solidarity”, is the boastful slogan across all ads celebrating the government’s achievements in all spheres of life. One such billboard celebrates “more electricity, more development”, in spite of the regular power outages. Such a massive propaganda exercise outside the electoral period has a precedent only in the early 1970s, when the Portuguese colonial authorities desperately tried to sell the idea that their rule was making people very happy, and independence could ruin all such great achievements. Nonetheless, this propaganda is in full swing at a time when the steady drop in the oil price on international markets could be good news for the Angolan people and a bad omen for their rulers. As a major countermeasure, last December the presidency decreed a 20 percent rise […]

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Member of Parliament Innovates in Law Breaking

Just days after being elected to the National Assembly by the provincial constituency of Huíla, Vigílio da Ressurreição Bernardo Tyova wrote to the minister of Geology and Mines asking for a mining concession in the municipality of Quilengues, in order to explore, extract, commercialize and export quartz. In the letter, dated 18 September 2012, Mr Tyova introduced himself as a managing partner, lawyer, “university professor” and 2nd secretary of the Provincial Committee of the  ruling MPLA for Huíla. Up to 2010, the businessman held the position of municipal administrator of Lubango, in the province of Huíla, where most of his businesses are based and have flourished. Already the title-holder of black granite mining concession nº 1012/327/TE/DNLCM/2008  in the municipality of Chibia, the lawmaker was looking to increase the number of concessions in his name. Omatali is a family business of which Mr Tyova is a 75 percent shareholder, with the […]

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You Too, Lopo!

The story of the MPLA parliamentarian Lopo do Nascimento, as a moderate, credible and critical voice in Angolan politics, is worthy of a biography. For years, many sectors of society, both at the heart of the regime and in the opposition and civil society, nurtured the hope that Nascimento would be the ideal presidential candidate who would bring them together. They saw him as providing a moral centre that was otherwise lacking in national politics. Yet, at the same time, many people felt that Nascimento, who has served as prime minister and as secretary-general of the MPLA, lacked the courage to confront President José Eduardo dos Santos and the members of his powerful inner circle. Nascimento’s clean image was called into question in 2011 when he took on the position of chairman of the board of Coba, one of Portugal’s main civil engineering and environmental consulting firms. In 2010 Nascimento set up a business consortium with the Angolan national oil company, Sonangol, which […]

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From the President to his Family: The Drainage Ditch

By Alfredo Muvuma Years ago, a high-ranking MPLA politburo member praised the business acumen of President José Eduardo’s children. More recently, the state-owned and only daily newspaper Jornal de Angola awarded Isabel dos Santos the title of entrepreneur of the year for 2012. In both cases, the objective was to sell the notion that there is a genuine business talent, within the Dos Santos’s family, to accumulate vast wealth. Forbes places Isabel dos Santos as the first Africa’s woman billionaire, which it estimates as the value of her legitimate shares in UNITEL, BIC Bank and in Portugal. Meanwhile, the State Budget Bill for 2013, passed days ago by the National Assembly, uncovers the farce: there is no mystery behind the enrichment of the Dos Santos clan and its entourage. Article 11 of the bill explains, in part, how the Angolan president and his cronies accumulate fortunes without sweating, much less […]

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Angolan Parliament splashes over $43 million on BMWs

The Angolan ruling party, the MPLA, has over the last two years been repeating its promise to keep a watch on the administration, the management of public resources and the well being of Angolans. This article compares the promises with the reality, and shows how the members of parliament have been serving their own interests rather than the interests of the people they supposedly represent. On 16 June 2010, the National Assembly renegotiated a loan contract with the Banco do Comércio e Indústria (BCI) worth 3.21 billion kwanzas (equivalent to 35.7 million US dollars) for the purchase of 210 cars, the 2010 model of the BMW 535i series. These vehicles, valued at $168.9 thousand each, are for parliamentarians’ use on official business and are to be delivered by the end of the year only. The current budget for 2010, for the acquisition of vehicles for parliamentarians, officials and personnel of […]

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