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Angola’s Joao Lourenco, from ‘terminator’ to tyrant

Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Angola, Angolan President Joao Lourenco

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Angola’s Joao Lourenco, from ‘terminator’ to tyrant

Angola’s president, Joao Lourenco, quickly earned ‘terminator’ nickname after he swept into office in 2017 and launched an anti-corruption drive mostly targeting his political mentor and former leader Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and members of his family. But – Lourenco is showing total reluctance in prosecuting his top ally – the former vice president along with a large number of corrupt individuals. This has already generated criticism at home and abroad about Lourenco’s sincerity in combating corruption. People say, the president actually has been targeting former president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and Santos family members as part of his political vindictiveness, while his key desire is to consolidate power – isolate his political opponents and establish a cruel dictatorship Angola. Experts on African affairs are seeing another cruel tyrant in Lourenco.

In 2018, Angola’s government strenuously protected former Vice President Manuel Vicente against corruption charges in a Portuguese court — a sign, government critics say, that this anti-corruption drive is purely cosmetic. Portugal agreed to transfer his case to Angola, but he has yet to face trial. Vicente, who formerly headed the state oil company, is now a special adviser to the President Joao Lourenco on oil and gas.

Back in 2020, President Joao Lourenco’s advisor Vicente’s stepson had a business deal, through a network of holding companies and offshore entities that have previously been accused of corruption in Brazil and Russia, or have been linked to the trade in African blood diamonds.

In the same year, President Joao Lourenco government acquired private jets priced well above the market value.

Ruling elites and even family members of President Joao Lourenco are getting wealthy through numerous illegal business deals, although these are yet to catch the attention of international bodies, including IMF.

Commenting on President Louranco’s anti-corruption drive, Isabel Dos Santos told the Voice of America in 2020, “He has been in office for two years. And when you look at how many cases has he really looked into — well, I have to say, I’m very disappointed. I wish he had really addressed the issue of corruption. Most of the corruption probably is connected to state contracts or connected to the oil sector, and not at all connected to the private sector. So this is a witch hunt. It’s singling out two or three people for political reasons. And there is very good reason for that, because you might ask me, ‘Why now? Why is this attack coming now?’ Well, the elections in Angola are next year. … So this is the beginning of an elections campaign”.

Where does this leave the ordinary Angolan? Angola is one of the world’s most unequal societies — despite its vast oil wealth, it was ranked as the world’s 14th most corrupt country by Transparency International.

“We’re trying to alert many of these foreign investors who are our clients, that even though the Angolan government is coming out with a different statement and a new brochure, so to speak, about the country, many of the key problems that have held back development and foreign investment in Angola are still very much present,” Besseling said. “It does not look that much has changed despite the changing of the guard”.

“The Terminator’s” critics agree, saying the lives of ordinary Angolans have yet to improve; however, they note that Lourenco has made a cosmetic change: Unlike his predecessor, his face does not appear on the bank notes.

People in Angola have started believing President Louranco’s anti-corruption drive as mere eye-wash. Moreover, his government has been increasingly becoming a cruel dictatorship – a tyrant regime, by gouging press freedom and interfering into judiciary.

In my opinion, Louranco knows people of Angola will speak-out against his government’s discreet corruption and increasingly autocratic behavior. For this reason, he is spreading fear in the society thus pushing the country towards another notorious dictatorship.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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