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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Sonangol’s Billion Dollar Headache

The task facing Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, as it adjusts to lower revenues during the slump in oil prices, is complicated by a stratospheric debt burden which gives little room for manoeuvre.  And yet the new administration is unexpectedly making repayment of one private debt a top priority. In spite of multiple pressing issues (including the root-and-branch restructuring of Sonangol) repayment of this particular debt has been fast-tracked by Sonangol’s new CEO, the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos.   A source close to the Sonangol board has told Maka Angola it’s the reason why Sonangol has been seeking a loan of US $800 million from a bank based in Egypt, offering as surety its shares in the Millenium BCP division of Portugal’s largest private bank, the Commercial Bank of Portugal (BCP). The urgent repayment?  A one billion US dollar debt owed to Trafigura. This is the joint venture between the […]

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40 Years On… The Boys are Back

Shrugging off the legal challenges to her appointment as President of the Board of Director of Sonangol, the President’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, has lost no time in showing how she means to restructure the state oil company.  Her first task has been to recruit 120 Portuguese staff to senior positions. The new recruits will join a further 50 consultants – also mostly Portuguese nationals – currently working as consultants and advisers to Isabel on behalf of the Boston Consulting Group and the Portuguese law firm Vieira de Almeida, who in effect are jointly running the Angolan state firm at this point. The arrival of the Portuguese contingent to take over at the Angolan state oil company raises some interesting points:  firstly, the total absence of any national or international recruitment campaign and the lack of any attempt at dialogue between the managers and workers at Sonangol points to the same lack […]

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Sonangol’s Debt Woes

Angola’s state oil giant, Sonangol, is running out of time to prove it has a credible plan to repay US $13 billion in loans it obtained from a syndicate of European banks. The loans’ agreements came with a contractual obligation to produce annual balance sheets showing a healthy ratio of debt to capital and it appears Sonangol has been unable to honour this. Last month the London-based Standard Chartered Bank set a 45 day deadline for Sonangol to explain its failure to comply with the debt ratio obligation stipulated as part of the loan agreement, and to provide documentary evidence that is has the capacity to honour the terms of the loan. Sources close to the Board of Directors of Sonangol have indicated to Maka Angola that the company may not be in a position to make the repayments on time. It is alleged that Sonangol’s long-term auditor EY raised objections to some […]

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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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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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The Road to Dialogue or Things Fall Apart in Angola

Last Friday, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution paving the way for Angola to be promoted from a low to middle income country by 2020. This resolution is cause for celebration by the government, for it is an international endorsement of its stewardship of the country. From 2003 to 2013, the country’s oil revenues reached over US $450 billion, according to Angolan economic estimates, and for a decade it ranked among the ten fastest growing economies in the world. Meanwhile, the timing of the UN resolution seems to be a twist of irony for ordinary Angolan citizens. It comes at a time when the bust of the oil fueled economic boom is all too evident on the supermarket shelves, and poverty is on the rise. Food shortages are becoming severe in parts of the country, while in the capital retailers are imposing rationing of certain products. […]

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Isabel dos Santos’ Diamonds and Husband

Isabel dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of the Angolan president, is the main beneficiary of the diamond trade in Angola. This involves simple arrangements in Angola, and more sophisticated ones abroad. Forbes magazine recently published an article in which this author investigates the partnership set up by Isabel dos Santos, through her husband Sindika Dokolo, and the Angolan state for the acquisition of the Swiss jeweller De Grisogono. This brand is known to be the favorite choice of movie stars and fashion celebrities including Sharon Stone and Heidi Klum. Maka Angola expands on this investigation and puts it in context. On February 27, 2012 a Maltese-registered company, Victoria Limited, acquired 72.5 percent of De Grisogono Holding S.A. The shareholding soon increased to 75 percent. A press statement by De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi at the time when the shares were sold said the deal was worth more than US$100 million. […]

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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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Dos Santos’ Son Shapes His Own Government

Speculation has been growing during the last few months on how José Filomeno dos Santos “Zenú”, one of the sons of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos “Zedú”, is being positioned as his successor to the presidency. What is not common knowledge is how Zenú has already been participating in the current management of government affairs. A recent example was the appointment, on May 6, of Armando Manuel, then economic advisor to President Zedú and chairman of the Angola Sovereign Wealth Fund, to the post of Finance minister. Initially, Zenú suggested to his father that Armando Manuel be considered for the position of chairman of the board of directors of Sonangol, the national oil company. Sources at the presidency told Maka Angola that José Eduardo dos Santos declined the request. He pointed out to his son the lack of technical capacity and political ability of Armando Manuel to manage the […]

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