Angolan kleptocrat addresses Yale, as anti-corruption activist faces trial


Outspoken Angolan human rights activist and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais* will be tried in camera for a story he wrote two years ago exposing alleged corruption, according to news reports:

The charges relate to a story that Marques wrote in 2016 about a purchase of land by former attorney-general Joao Maria de Sousa. A court hearing on Monday was adjourned until 24 April after De Souza’s lawyers argued that as a former attorney-general he has special privileges.

The reports coincide with news that Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, was scheduled to address Yale University’s Undergraduate Association for African Peace and Development (YAAPD):


Dos Santos (right) is the former chairwoman of Sonangol, Angola’s state-owned oil company, and the daughter of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. She has been accused of corruption and graft. In 2015, Transparency International, a global monitoring group, identified dos Santos as a “prime example” of grand corruption.

The problem with YAAPD’s speaker selection is that ordinary Angolans are acutely aware that the dos Santos family’s wealth came from political connections, not entrepreneurship, said Justin Pearce, an Angola expert at the University of Cambridge.

Corruption used to be so widespread in Angola that “gasosa,” the Portuguese word for a fizzy drink, became a common term for bribes. Now, President Joao Lourenco is on a drive to change that — and the son of his predecessor could soon be put on trial, Bloomberg adds. The son of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, planned to siphon off $1.5bn when he ran the oil-rich country’s sovereign wealth fund, the finance ministry said this week. Jose Filomeno dos Santos, nicknamed “Zenu”, is accused of “fraud, misappropriation of funds, money laundering and associating with criminals”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the Angolan authorities’ decision to continue the trial of journalists Morais, who runs the anti-corruption news website Maka Angola, and Mariano Bras Lourenco behind closed doors instead of in open court. The two were charged in June 2017 with crimes against the state, the CPJ reports:

Marques de Morais told CPJ that the trial judge, Josina Falcão, today ruled that proceedings will continue in the office of the attorney general, Hélder Fernando Pitta Grós, on April 24. Former Attorney General João Maria de Sousa, who filed charges against the two journalists, has refused to appear in open court claiming he has special privileges as the former attorney general, according to Marques de Morais and a report from Agence France-Presse. The defense team will also not be allowed to question de Sousa directly, but will have to submit questions to the judge who will then determine which questions are appropriate, according to Marques de Morais and Radio France Internationale.

“Today’s developments flout the basic right to equality before the law, and call into question whether the state has something to hide,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “We urge Angolan authorities to ensure that journalists Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenco receive a fair, transparent trial.”

*One of five people awarded the 2017 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy.

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