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EXCLUSIVE: Angola’s ruling party imploding as Lourenco wields axe

from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola 
LUANDA, (CAJ News) – COINCIDING with a promise of an economic miracle in Angola turning into a nightmare, the prospects of the country’s ruling party look doomed as President Joao Lourenco tightens his grip on the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) with a string of dismissals and probes of comrades critical of his autocratic style of leadership.

Angola President Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco

Fear has thus gripped the party, formed in 1956 and in power since independence 1975, ahead of an Extraordinary Congress later this year ostensibly to define strategies leading to the local elections scheduled for 2020.

However, coming on the back of expulsions of some leading party figures, members have projected the congress to be a platform for further purges at the behest of Lourenco and his right-hand man, General Fernando Garcia Miala, who heads the state intelligence and security service (SINSE).

The decision to hold the congress was made during the first regular meeting of the party’s Political Bureau, held recently in the capital Luanda, under the request of Lourenço.

Political analyst, Dominique Jordão, questioned the timing of the congress.

“It creates the impression Lourenco is aiming for total control of the party and purge some opponents. The announcement has come too soon after his election to head the ruling party,” he said.

Lourenco had succeeded dos Santos as leader of the Southern African country the previous year.

It is reported the dismantling of the MPLA’s central committee is on the agenda.

The mood within the party is also panicky following indications a list of names of MPLA members has recently been compiled and submitted to prosecutors.

This week, the former provincial governor of Luanda, Higino Carneiro, a highly respected war hero was officially charged in a lawsuit over alleged corruption during his tenure between 2016 and 2017.

The current vice-president of the National Assembly, and former minister of Public Works, is also accused of having abused his ministerial position during his term of office from 2002 to 2010.

He has been identified as a potential competitor to President Lourenco, who appears not to take kindly to criticism.

The purge at state enterprises has also raised concern particularly as they were the lifeblood of the ruling party over the years.

Former director of the Angola Highways Institute (INEA), Joaquim Sebastião, was recently arrested for alleged corruption, but this raised eyebrows as the arrest came almost a decade after he was retired.

This, the head of INEA in Cabinda, Igor Pereira, was detained following accusations of embezzlement, money laundering and misappropriation of state funds.

On Tuesday, Lourenço relieved Paulino Fernando de Carvalho Jerónimo, from his position of Secretary of State to take the lead in the oil agency, therefore a promotion as a trusted part of the Lourenço clan.

The president on Monday dismissed Miguel Damião Gago from the position of board of director of the Sovereign Fund of Angola (FSDEA), only a month after his appointment.

Jordão said through the arrests and dismissals, Lourenco was portraying himself as an anti-corruption proponent and delivering on his election campaign.

“However, this anti-corruption crusade comes across as a vindictive campaign targeting opponents,” Jordao said.

On the economic front, Africa’s second largest producer of crude oil (after Nigeria), Angola is yet to see the economic miracle Lorenco pledged when he campaigned for office.

Central bank governor, Jose de Lima Massano, has been quoted as saying, “In 2019, we will look at 2018 with regrets.”

Lourenço had promised his pledge of a miracle on foreign direct investment but this has not materialized, instead, debt has risen from 68,5% to 91% of the GDP in 2018 since President has been in power: over 2.5 Billion USD in Eurobonds, 3.7 Billion USD from IMF, over 2 Billion USD from China to name the latest addition.

His administration also pinned its hopes on the Law on the Repatriation of Financial Resources.

It establishes terms and conditions for the repatriation of financial resources held abroad by resident individuals and legal entities with registered office in Angola, but there is little to suggest the amount funds that have been repatriated.

The central bank governor claimed he had no knowledge but this is seen as a tactic not to discredit the government.

Lourenco had at the start of his presidency announced US$30 billion had been externalised. The general international community had expected that he should have repatriated at least 30 percent by the end of 2018, but that proved unsuccessful.

Angola recorded a 1,6 percent economic contraction in the third quarter of 2018 and ended the year with an inflation rate of 18,6 percent, the National Statistics Institute (INE) stated in January.

José Calenge, from the National Accounts and Statistical Coordination Department of INE, said the year-on- year drop in gross domestic product (GDP) was due to poor performance in sectors such as oil, diamonds and agriculture.

Transport and telecommunications also declined, dealing a blow to government plans to diversify Africa’s fifth biggest economy from an over-reliance on oil.

– CAJ News

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