Angolan opposition leaders and civil society groups are contesting the results of last Friday’s elections which, they contend, were far from free and fair.
The head of the African Union’s election observation mission, Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Pires, cited problems with accreditation of observers, unfair access to media and a failure to permit diaspora voting, but deemed the election to be “free, fair, transparent and credible“.
“We are of the opinion that while some of the issues raised were pertinent, they were nevertheless not of such magnitude as to have affected the credibility of the overall electoral process,” said Bernand Membe, Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister who led the SADC mission.
But activist musician Luaty Beirao (right) told IPS that “this election was rigged and this government is not legitimate.”
“How can these elections be considered fair?” he asked. “How can you say that thing went well just because there were no fights and people were not throwing stuff at cars or burning tyres in the street?
“Peaceful is not the only the way we analyses if an election was fair and free. We must analyses the high numbers of people who were not able to vote.”
The dubious poll provides further evidence that “African leaders are not only welcoming business with China with open arms, many of them are also adopting what has become widely known as ‘the Chinese model’ of political management,” some observers suggest.
The campaign slogan of the ruling MPLA party was “Grow More, Distribute Better,” but the regime of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is incapable of deliver on its promise, says a leading civil society activist.
“They try to follow the Chinese model, but they don’t even give bread in exchange for freedom,” said Rafael Marques de Morais, an anticorruption activist and journalist.
“The world screams when a president changes the constitution for a third term,” said Rafael Marques de Morais, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. “This guy has been in power for 33 years and he’ll be there for 43 years but the world has been silent.”
“How many interviews with Dos Santos can you find? Hardly any. I’ve never seen a picture of him sitting at his desk working. We all know the White House in America but after 33 years people have no idea what our president’s office looks like. In fact very little is known about him.”
Critics liken Dos Santos to a Machiavelli who has cleverly hidden in plain sight, eschewing the inflammatory rhetoric of his counterparts while shrewdly courting the US, Brazil and China. The picture of his face on campaign posters around Angola is mild, understated, almost benevolent.
De Morais, who has published several reports alleging the involvement of Dos Santos’s family and political allies in corrupt business deals, added: “He is a withdrawn dictator, but the way he uses businesses to benefit his family puts Mobutu to shame. He passes laws to do it. He has always relied more on corruption than any other dictator. Obiang would not co-opt the opposition into the security apparatus as he has.”
“Kleptocratic African leaders like dos Santos have little or nothing to learn from their Chinese counterparts, who are equally adept at using positions of power to favor family businesses…..[so] “it is unlikely that dos Santos will significantly change how he manages and distributes the roughly $50 billion a year he gets from Angola’s booming oil industry, Africa’s second largest after Nigeria,” writes Jonathan Manthorpe:
Oil money accounts for two-thirds of government revenue and 42.5 per cent of gross domestic product. According to several studies by European and American non-governmental organizations, over recent years about $30 billion of those revenues have gone missing as they passed through the president’s office on the way to distribution.
At the same time the president’s eldest daughter, Isabel dos Santos, reckoned by Forbes magazine to be one of Africa’s most powerful and wealthy women, who manages the family fortunes and who once monopolized the country’s lucrative blood diamond trade, has made massive multi-million dollar investments in Europe and Angola.