Tag Archives: Angola

Angola – Portugal laying corruption charges against V-P Vicente

BBC


Angola Vice President Manuel Vicente -AFP

Manuel Vicente was tipped by some to be Angola’s next president

Portuguese state prosecutors are bringing corruption charges against Angola’s vice-president Manuel Vicente.

The attorney-general’s office says that Mr Vicente paid $810,000 (£650,000) in bribes to shut down corruption investigations that he was facing.

The alleged bribes were made to Portugal’s former public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who also faces charges as part of “Operation Fizz”.

Mr Vicente’s lawyer has denied the allegations, Portuguese media report.

More on this and other African stories

Elite hoard Angola’s new-found wealth

Mr Vicente served as head of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol from 1999 until 2012, a hugely influential position now occupied by the president’s daughter Isabel Dos Santos.

Until news of the corruption scandal emerged last year, he had been strongly tipped as a potential successor to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled Angola since 1979.

The original corruption investigation, halted in 2012, focused on the origin of money Mr Vicente used to buy a luxury apartment in Lisbon, local media reported.
Isabel dos Santos now occupies the post long held by Mr Vicente

The vice-president’s lawyer, Rui Patricio, said his client had not been notified of any charges being brought against him, describing the move as a “procedural violation” which “invalidated the legal process”, local media report.

Portuguese prosecutors say they intend to notify the vice-president of the charges via the Angolan authorities.

Angola has branded previous attempts by Portugal to investigate Mr Vicente as “revenge by the former colonial master” and “neo-colonialism”.

Angola’s political and financial elite have in recent years invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler.

The investments have largely gone into buying up property and Portuguese companies.

Angola and Nigeria are Africa’s biggest oil producers.

Despite its oil wealth most people in Angola survive on less than $2 a day and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world

Critics accuse President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of being increasingly authoritarian.

Angola – MPLA picks leaders ready for 2017 elections

Reuters

Angola’s ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) elected new party leaders on Tuesday, including a former army general seen as a front-runner to succeed long-time president José Eduardo dos Santos.

MPLA’s Central Committee elected João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, a retired general and defence minister, as vice president ahead of 2017 parliamentary elections where the leader of the winning party becomes president.

Dos Santos, president of oil-producing southern African nation since 1979, was re-elected party leader over the weekend by an overwhelming majority. But in March he indicated he would be step down by 2018, although he failed to name a successor.

Dos Santos’ billionaire daughter, Isabel, is seen as another potential successor after her appointment by presidential decree to chief executive of state oil firm Sonangol, the main source of government revenues.

The appointment in June was seen by some analysts as dos Santos laying the ground for dynastic, family succession if the president follows through on his indication to step down in 2018.

The party also elected former prime minister António Paulo Kassoma as secretary general of the organisation.

Angola, a member of OPEC and Africa’s second largest oil exporter after Nigeria, has been battered by the slump in global crude prices that has dried-up revenues and provoked opposition to dos Santos’ 36-year rule.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana)

Angola – FLEC says it has killed 17 soldiers in Cabinda attacks

Reuters

Two rebels and 17 Angolan soldiers were killed in two incidents in the oil-producing province of Cabinda at the weekend, the separatist Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) said on Monday.

Authorities in the southern African, currently Africa’s biggest oil producer, declined to comment. On Friday the government also did not respond to a FLEC claim that nine Angolan soldiers had been killed in the region.

Luanda rarely responds to such claims in a region where separatists have been waging a low-intensity guerrilla campaign for several decades.

The latest clashes broke out on Saturday and Sunday near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, FLEC said in a statement.

FLEC, which wants independence for a territory that accounts for half of Angola’s oil output, has been more vocal since the death this year of its 88-year-old founder, Nzita Tiago, in exile in France.

Men claiming to be rebels boarded an offshore Chevron gas platform in late May and threatened foreign petroleum workers in a rare sign of the simmering instability in heavily guarded Cabinda.

The incident cast doubt on Luanda’s assertion that FLEC has fizzled out since a 2007 peace deal. Analysts say the group does not have the ability to affect oil output in Angola, nearly all of which is offshore.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by TJ Strydom; Editing by Ed Cropley)

Angola – Isabel dos Santos’s fake fortune is Sonangol money

Maka Angola

Rafael Marques de Morais, May 30, 2016

2016

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Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo at the recent Cannes Festival (Photo: D. Bennet).

When Isabel dos Santos sits down to count her billions, as Africa’s richest woman, much of that fortune is in stocks and shares which she counts as her own. Forbes estimates her wealth at US $3.3 billion. The reality, however, is that a large proportion (almost two thirds of her fortune) estimated at 1.6 billion Euros (US $1.8 billion) according to the Diário Economico’s calculations, corresponds to stocks in the Portuguese oil and gas company, Galp, which legally belong to the Angolan National Oil Company, Sonangol.President José Eduardo dos Santos’s daughter told the Wall Street Journal last February: “I’m not financed by any state money or any public funds.” She insisted “I don’t do that.” Ever since the announcement that she had become a billionaire, Isabel has done her utmost to justify her fortune as “clean”, the result of entrepreneurial expertise which began with her selling eggs at the tender age of six.Galp is Portugal’s largest company in the oil and gas sector with share capital worth 9.5 billion euros.

Maka Angola has conduced an investigation which unmasks Isabel dos Santos and proves that – contrary to her assertions – her Galp shares were obtained via Sonangol in a business deal paid for by State money and public funds. The FactsIsabel’s Galp interests are held indirectly, through the offshore Esperaza Holding BV which owns 45% of Amorim Energia, the largest shareholder in Galp with 38.4% of its stock. Amorim Energia’s majority owner (with 55%) is Portugal’s richest man, Américo Amorim, who was Isabel’s partner in creating the BIC bank in 2005. The two are also partners in the company Nova Cimangola, acquired from Cimpor by the Angolan State for US $75 million. It is through Esperaza Holding that Sonangol’s funds were channelled to Isabel dos Santos.In 2005, when Esperaza Holding bought into Galp, it was registered by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Handelsregisterhistorie) as being a company wholly-owned by Sonangol and this was again the case the following year.However, documents obtained by Maka Angola show that on January 25, 2006, Sonangol signed a contract with an offshore company named Exem Africa Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, to create Esperaza Holding as a vehicle for investment. The contract – in English – specifies that Sonangol is the sole source of funds that wil be invested in Galp in the name of both parties. This is the ‘smoking gun’ – an undeniable paper trail that shows Angolan public money was put into Esperaza and in turn into its holding in Galp.

With the formalities for the creation of Exem Africa Limited complete, Sonangol transferred 40% of its stake in Galp to Exem. According to a document obtained by Maka Angola, Isabel dos Santos formally reported to the Portuguese Competition Authority [Autoridade da Concorrência] that she is the beneficial owner of the Exem’s shares in Esperaza. In short, Angola’s state oil giant was using a front company in which Isabel dos Santos is the ultimate beneficial owner to channel public money into overseas investments, and without Exem having to put up a single cent, by a stroke of the pen the company found itself the owner of 40% of Sonangol’s investment in Galp.Information in the public domain was that Esperaza Holding (the vehicle for controlling Galp shares) was 45% owned by the President’s daughter and 55% owned by Sonangol. However the formal agreement shows that she received 40% of the stakes, and not 45% as she misleads the public to believe. The deal was signed by Manuel Vicente, then Chairman of the Board and CEO of Sonangol (now Angola’s Vice-President) and on Isabel’s behalf by her legal counsel, Fidel Kiluanje Assis Araújo.The memorandum of understanding between the two parties divided Sonangol’s Galp share acquisition in two phases: in Phase One, Exem would pay Sonangol 11.2 million Euros (US $12.5), equivalent to 15% of the value set at the time for the execution of the transfer of the shares. In Phase Two, Exem would pay Sonangol a further 63.8 million Euros (US $71.5 million) to cover the remaining 85% of the cost of their 40% split of the parcel of Galp shares.It was a sweet deal because Isabel didn’t have to pluck a single penny out of her own purse. The money would come out of the Galp dividends paid to Esperaza Holding along with non-convertible units at the Euribor 3-month interest rate.That same year, 2006, Isabel dos Santos’s husband Sindika Dokolo became a director on the Galp Board on behalf of Esperaza Holding. Isabel dos Santos formally admitted to the Portuguese Competition Authority that she is the minority shareholder in Esperaza Holding through Exem Africa.

Explanations

This is how the scheme worked. Sonangol paid for 45% of the shares in Amorim Energia which in turn held 38.4% of the shares in Galp. Sonangol then ‘donated’ a proportion of that to front companies that lead to Isabel dos Santos, requiring her only to pay up once she had pocketed sufficient dividends from the investment.So far as Maka Angola has been able to establish, there is no evidence whatsoever that Isabel (or her front companies) ever paid Sonangol the agreed sums. No official record seems to exist to show even that first payment (11.2 million Euros) changing hands.In fact, even if she were to pay up in full, the total bill for the share transfer (75 million Euros to obtain 40% of Esperaza) was actually less than the true cost of Sonangol’s investment. How else then can this transaction be described except as an illict transfer of State assets to the President’s daughter?Isabel dos Santos didn’t have to spend a single penny of her own money on this fine piece of business. All the money owed to Sonangol for the share split would come from the profits: Galp pays dividends to Esperaza and Esperaza is then supposed to divide it up and remit to Sonangol its share (60%). But Sonangol’s balance sheets and accounts show no payments from Isabel dos Santos’s holdings towards these debts.

To date, all that has happened is that Sonangol made the purchase and Isabel received the pay-out. And yet she portrays herself “in ringing declarations” as “tremendously independent.” “I always had this wish to stand alone and not be in my parents’ shadow,” she told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.In truth, thanks to her father’s 37-year Presidency, Isabel has used Angola’s state oil company as her private investment banker doling out an ‘inheritance’ worth hundreds of millions of US dollars to propel her into billionaire status, at the expense of the long-suffering and impoverished Angolan people who should be the true beneficiaries of Angola’s oil wealth.So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the person entrusted by the President with the restructuring of Sonangol (through her position as Chair of the Commission for the Reorganization of the Oil Sector) is none other than Isabel dos Santos. This brainchild – the creation of the Boston Consulting Group and the Portuguese firm of lawyers Vieira de Almeira e Associados – is nothing more than the latest scheme by which the President’s family milks Sonangol for its own ends.

Conclusion

An estimated two-thirds of Isabel’s fortune is based on her Galp shareholding, which, with no evidence to show that she has ever repaid Sonangol for its initial investment, should properly belong to the Angolan state oil company.Maka Angola’s legal analyst, Rui Verde, says this: “Isabel dos Santos’s shares in Galp should have an ownership reserve clause or a lien on these assets in favour of Sonangol until such time as the money owed is paid up in full. Even then it is not a legal act for a state firm to function as a private investment bank for the presidential family.”“From a strictly legal point of view, the handover of shares to front companies acting for Isabel, should be ruled null and void with the shares immediately reverting to Sonangol ownership.”In this lawyer’s professional opinion, there is a strong case for a criminal investigation by both Portugal and Angola into this matter, because of the “indications of corruption, embezzlement, evasion and money-laundering”.“Evidence that the shareholding obtained by Isabel dos Santos came about through the unsanctioned use of state funds by underhand means, is sufficient grounds to suggest a contravention of the international laws against money-laundering, and that is a public crime requiring obligatory investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.”Independent observers say that the use of Sonangol’s funds as a launchpad for his daughter’s business interests is just one example of the myriad ways in which the President and his family are systematically robbing the Angolan public purse for their own ends in broad daylight and in full public view. It’s incomprehensible to outsiders why the Angolan public has remained so submissive in light of the rapacious greed of the robber baron family that rules over them.

Angola – Dos Santos said to be intending to step down in 2018

Reuters

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979 and is one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, said on Friday he intended to step down in 2018 but gave no reason for his decision and did not name a preferred successor.

Angola, a member of OPEC and Africa’s second largest oil exporter after Nigeria, has been hit hard by the slump in global crude prices. Oil export revenues account for more than 90 percent of foreign exchange revenues.

“I took the decision to leave active political activity in 2018,” Dos Santos, 73, said in a speech to members of his ruling MPLA party’s key decision-making body. He did not elaborate.

Angola holds its next parliamentary election in 2017 and the leader of the winning party will then become president. MPLA leader Dos Santos was re-appointed to a new five-year term as Angolan president in 2012 after his party won a landslide win.

Some Luanda residents expressed surprise that Dos Santos had decided not to step down before the next election.

“The elections are in 2017, not in 2018. He should quit before the elections in 2017,” said Afonso Kangulo, 42, who is jobless and blamed the government for the weak economy.

But Frank Francisco, 48, a public service worker, said: “If he were to quit before the election, maybe people would say he ran away because he would have lost.”

Weak oil prices have hammered Africa’s third largest economy and the government is in discussions with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund about possible financial assistance.

Dos Santos’ mild, inscrutable public demeanour belies his tight control of Angola, a former Portuguese colony where he has overseen an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year-long civil war that ended in 2002.

Critics accuse him of mismanaging Angola’s oil wealth and making an elite, mainly his family and political allies, vastly rich in a country ranked amongst the world’s most corrupt.

Dos Santos, a Soviet-educated former petroleum engineer, is Africa’s second longest ruling leader after Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

DYNASTIC SUCCESSION?

Vice-President Manuel Vicente – former head of state oil firm Sonangol – is seen as a likely successor to Dos Santos.

“(Dos Santos) has been grooming Vicente for quite a while now … He has deputised for him on a number of important occasions, which sent a strong signal,” said Gary van Staden, a Johannesburg-based political analyst with NKC African Economics.

But another analyst said the president was grooming his son, Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, to succeed him. The younger Dos Santos currently heads Angola’s sovereign wealth fund.

“It may mean the succession is in progress and that it will be a dynastic one,” said Nelson Bonavena, an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of Angola and political analyst.

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an Angola expert at Britain’s Oxford University, struck a more cautious note.

“Dos Santos’ departure from power has been the talk of the town in Luanda for 15 years. He has always hinted that he wanted to leave but this is the most specific commitment he has ever made,” he said.

“The fact that he put a date to it is a powerful marker and would come back to haunt him if he were to renege on it.”

(Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala and Ed Stoddard; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Angola – judges don’t get the joke on social media

Maka Angola

The War on Social Media and the Trial of Activists

Rafael Marques de Morais, January 12, 2016

Following the president’s outline of his war on social media, Judge Januário Domingos is making history by being the first to hear a case of a political joke on Facebook that has displeased the regime.

Yesterday, the judge of the Luanda Provincial Court questioned a Catholic priest, Father Jacinto Pio Wakussanga, for being part of an imaginary government, generated in a playful Facebook discussion, as the head of the National Electoral Commission. In court, the priest told the judge that he had heard through social media about this imaginary government and thought it was just a joke.

Last May, a lawyer Albano Pedro set up an open online forum on his Facebook page to entice discussants to come up with names for what would be an ideal government of national salvation. The leader of the millennial religious sect “The Light of the Day”, José Julino Kalupeteka, who has been in jail since last April, was chosen by the participants as president of the Republic. On April 16, 2015, police and military forces massacred Kalupeteka’s faithful, after he resisted arrest in the Central Highland Province of Huambo.

This was the ultimate insult. The president, who has been in power for 36 years, came up with an ingenious constitution in which he is neither directly elected by the people nor by parliament. He projects himself as the Chosen One.

How could the leader of a sect he had just crushed with the might of his defense and security apparatus be chosen to replace him? He could not see it as a joke, but only as an affront by insurgents. He sees social media as a rebel- controlled territory that continues to elude his capture for absolute control of people’s minds.

The president and his men are conjuring up a blitzkrieg against the remaining critical forces in the country who continue to question his authority and will to rule for life. These scattered and ragtag opponents, no longer able to sustain any level of real organization, have been regrouping on the Internet like partisan forces sabotaging all propaganda efforts, and the golden rule of silence. That is the last frontier of debate or war.

So, in June, the police arrested 15 youth activists who were engaged in a book club and brainstorming peaceful methods of protest. In this blitzkrieg strategy the youths were charged with the crime of rebellion and attempting to assassinate the president. According to the charges, they would assassinate  President José Eduardo dos Santos by literally burning tires in the presidential palace to smoke him out.

Albano Pedro’s list of the imaginary government, in which he plays speaker of the National Assembly, was appended to the youths’ charges as supposed proof of their effort to get rid of the current regime, and install a new one.

However, of the 15 defendants, only the popular rapper Luaty Beirão got chosen for a relevant job, that of the Attorney General of the Republic. The three other defendants on the list are: Mbanza Hamza (deputy minister of Culture), rapper Hitler Jessy Chiconde (governor of Moxico Province), and Domingos da Cruz(general inspector of state administration).

This list of 53 names, apart from the choice of Kalupeteka for president, is a veritable cast of some of the voices whose influence in certain sectors of Angolan society the regime has not been able to silence, co-opt or undo. Bingo! Dos Santos’s chief intelligence officer must have thought.

For instance, the former prime minister and ex-secretary general of the ruling MPLA, Marcolino Moco, who is now a sworn enemy of the president, was given the job of chief justice of the Supreme Court. As a matter of fact, this author is the purported Minister of Justice and Human Rights of that imaginary government.

Nevertheless, the government-makers were apparently so lazy that they did not care to provide names for six ministries, including Energy and Water, Transports, Geology and Mining, Tourism, Fisheries and Sports. Most positions for the deputies of all portfolios were left vacant. Out of the 18 provinces, the jokers could only come up with the names to govern six provinces!  As for ambassadors, they only picked one for the United Nations, convicted human rights activist José Marcos Mavungo, who is serving a six-year jail sentence for rebellion. Mavungo had attempted to hold a peaceful protest for the respect of human rights and against bad governance in the oil-rich province of Cabinda.

Now, the judge is calling all the members of this imaginary government to court to be interrogated. I am one of the 50 to be called, and I cannot wait.

Nowadays, these online insurgents call the Luanda Provincial Court “the Luanda Provincial Theater”. Twenty years have passed since I last performed as a stage actor, while practicing journalism during the day. This play of an imaginary government, used by an Orwellian leader to squash dissent, is very appealing to me, and I want to play my small part in it.

A Short History of Modern Angola – a concise and focused addition to the literature

Keith Somerville – review of David Birmingham, A Short history of Modern Angola,  London: Hurst and Co, 2015, pp 159 (including index). £17.99
ISBN 9781849045193

 

David Birmingham, one of the leading scholars of modern Angola has produced a superbly concise but focused and very readable history of Angola.  It is succinct but detailed and discursive at the same time. For me, after decades of studying and observing events in Angola, it is a breath of fresh air as it brings in the lives of ordinary people, the role and development of trade and the importance of families and communities involved in commerce across the centuries in the development of  local and national economic structures and the growth of a trading, commercial and quasi-military caste that has come to dominate urban politics in Angola and been the dominant gatekeeper for economic and political relations with the outside world.

Much of the history of Portuguese involvement, trade, slaving and then occupation of Angola is told through snapshots of the lives of people and the development of trade – slaves, ivory, wild rubber, cocoa, coffee, cotton and latterly diamonds and oil.  In telling the story of Angola, Birmingham brings it to life in a novel and effective way.  It is not a dry, dusty account but a vibrant living one that demonstrates how trade, colonisation, settlement, inter-marriage, racism and grievances over that racism have all contributed to the complex society we see today and to the history of conflict, division and external intervention.  An unstated but clear theme is the way that the exploitation of natural resources was a curse not a boon for the Angolan people.

A clear and admirably neat account of the liberation war, the end of colonialism and the subsequent internationalised civil war eschews over-emphasis on the Cold War or ethnic factors.  If there is a criticism it is that it slightly downplays the long-term relationship between Holden Roberto’s FNLA and both Mobutu and the CIA, and the role of China in the post-1974 fight for power.  I would also have liked a little more on how the creole/assimilado elite of Luanda and coastal towns formed the power base from which the Dos Santos-Van Dunem clique and its patronage network first gained power through the MPLA,  espousing socialism and holding on to Soviet and Cuban support, and then used its hold on the reins of power to exploit petro-capitalism to cement its continuing hegemony and wealth.  But this is a minor criticism of what is an excellent and very welcome book.