from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA – THE trend by the West to turn a blind eye and fete its blue-eyed boys disregarding human rights in the developing world is playing itself out in Angola where President Joao Lourenco is accused of complicity in corruption and selective application of the rule of law to tighten his grip on power.
As the international community, mostly influential nations in the West, hail the so-called war against corruption and hold Lourenco in high regard, in reality, a series of events in the past few weeks have again brought into question his government’s sincerity.
At the beginning of the month, the president accepted the resignation of Rui Ferreira from his position as the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court.
While this was voluntary, according to the government, the resignation is because ironically, Ferreira had shown commitment to fighting corruption.
“The courts cannot fail (in combating corruption and in prosecuting crimes), otherwise they will jeopardize the consolidation of the rule of law,” has said previously.
It is believed for this stance, Ferreira had earned himself enemies, even within the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
The top judge was under intense pressure to step down and in his resignation letter, cited “an intense and cruel campaign of lies, misrepresentation of facts, intrigues, slander and insults” against him.
Maico Borba, the local sociopolitical commentator, said,
“Ferreira’s resignation is a case of corruption fighting back.”
This week, French authorities announced that they were investigating a local company accused of bribing senior Angolan officials in return for multimillion-dollar contracts by Angola’s Ministry of Energy and Water.
João Batista Borges, Minister of Water and Energy, is at the centre of the bribery storm.
Critics believe if Lourenco was genuine in his fight against graft, as Western nations believe, Borges would be under probe and out of government, considering he has always been in position to sign contracts since 2011 . It is not the first time he is accused of corruption.
He was accused of bribery attempts in a controversial deal that
culminated in a United States-based company suing the Angolan
government to the tune of $45 million following an abortive energy deal.
Borges in 2016, with his cousin’s company Prodel, signed another controversial agreement with Privinvest the discredited Middle East group, to introduce hydrokinetic power generation in Angola.
Borges is in familiar company alongside another controversial figure in Angolan politics, the beleaguered former Vice President, Manuel Vicente.
In 2017, a court in the former colonial master, Portugal, ruled that Vicente should face trial over allegations against him for allegedly bribing a magistrate with over $800 000 in order quash investigations into shady deals while he was still head of the state-owned Sonangol oil company between 2009 and 2012.
Despite this and other controversies, he remains a valued adviser to the current President and has not been tried.
“The retaining of other officials implicated in corrupt deals is testament that the crusade against corruption is a ploy by Lourenco to entrench his power,” analyst Leocadio Jorge said.
Analysts believe Lourenco is, by these actions, and the West by feting him, is the latest in a list of leaders from the developing world that have been darlings of the West, with most being later lampooned as despots when the cosy relations were over.
This list includes Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar State Counsellor and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who the West initially hailed but is now vilifying as pariahs.
Zimbabwe’s then-president, Robert Mugabe (now late), also was also a favourite with Western governments but was denounced as a despot in the latter years of his reign.
“The same mistake is being made in Angola’s President Joao
Lourenco, who has used an anti-corruption campaign to tighten his personal control over the southern African country,” said a critic.
“The list of leaders the West has regretted backing is long.
Lourenco must earn international support based on his deeds, not be handed it based on his speeches,” the critic added.
“For now, the West’s policy on Lourenco is ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. Judging by previous experiences, it is just a matter of time before relations sour and Lourenco is ridiculed as a dictator,” Borba said.
– CAJ News