Angola’s ruling elites are no more or less corrupt than their Western counterparts. Or that at least was the claim of H.E. Antonio Luvualu de Carvalho, the regime’s Roaming Ambassador, addressing a meeting at the National Endowment for Democracy earlier this year.
When presented with compelling evidence of endemic nepotism and corruption by journalist and Maka Angola Director Rafael Marques de Morais (left), Carvalho countered by citing the decision by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to appoint his son Jean to head the administration managing the Parisian business district La Défense, even though he was only 23 and had yet to complete his law degree.
However, it was pointed out to Carvalho that he had failed to mention that the Sarkozy appointment was revoked after questions were raised in the media and the French Assembly, and legal action threatened. In effect, far from justifying nepotism, Carvalho’s case only emphasized the importance of independent media, a freely-elected parliament and genuine rule of law, precisely the democratic institutions and separation of powers that Marques had called for.
The regime’s prosecution of Marques and several other civil society activists amounts to a “procession of political cases through the Angolan courts … at a time when the ruling elite is nervous about both its dwindling resources of patronage and threats to its assertive stance in international relations,” notes Cambridge University’s Justin Pearce, the author of Political Identity and Conflict in Central Angola.
“At the same time, Angola’s rulers are faced with the rise of a generation that does not accept the political logic of the war, whereby dissent equaled treason,” he writes in the latest issue of Current History:
The reasons for the generational shift are clear enough. Even the older protesters were still children the last time Luanda experienced armed combat, for a few fearful days after the elections in 1992. Confronted with this new challenge to its authority, the regime’s choice was to adapt or to dig in. Attempts to adapt, to learn how to accommodate dissent, have been paltry. Some elite figures have set themselves up as media barons in an attempt to put independent journalism out of business. But social media has circumvented this ploy, thanks to some well-regarded investigative and analytical blogs and news websites, plus a proliferation of scurrilous memes satirizing corruption.