Angola: leading investigative journalist faces trial

angola Diamantes-de-Sangue2-150x150Rafael Marques de Morais is to go on trial before Judge Adriano Cerveira Baptista in the Luanda Provincial Court on December 15. Marques de Morais is charged with criminal libel for having exposed human rights abuses in the diamond-producing province of Lunda Norte in north-eastern Angola, Maka Angola reports.

The case concerns the book Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola), written by the accused and published in Portugal in September 2011. The book recounts in detail more than 500 cases of torture and 100 killings carried out in a period of 18 months in the districts of Cuango and Xá-Muteba. According to statements by victims and witnesses, these abuses were carried out by guards from the private security firm Teleservice, which provides security service to SMC, and by soldiers of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA).

angola marquesAfter the publication of the book the author filed a complaint with the Angolan Attorney General on 14 November 2011. He called on the authorities to investigate the moral responsibility of the generals, as the owners of Teleservice and SMC, for the abuses. As the owners of the company Lumanhe, which owns 21 percent of SMC, the generals made a contractual commitment  to “safeguard the company’s relationship with the local community, contributing to the social stability and harmonious development of the project in the contracted area.” In reality, the relationship has been marked by deepening poverty and violence. 

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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Southern Africa’s unholy trinity

rafael marquesIn Southern Africa, there are three countries where such a struggle for freedom of expression is of particular concern, says Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais.

What Angola, Zimbabwe and Swaziland have in common is that their heads of state are among the five longest serving in Africa. President José Eduardo dos Santos has been in power for 35 years, Robert Mugabe for 34, and King Mswati III for 28. They are all enemies of the free press. The difference among them is in the methods they use to silence dissent, and what they have to offer or not to the international community, in exchange for legitimacy, he said, delivering the Carlos Cardoso memorial lectureat Johannesburg’s Wits University earlier this week.

As for the media and civil societies in the three aforementioned countries, there is a paradox. Zimbabwe has a vibrant, very skilled media and civil society sector. For years, there has been an outpouring of support from the international community for civil society and the opposition. But oppression has triumphed, the opposition has crumbled and the press continues to be prosecuted. In Angola, in which the equivalent sectors have had negligible international support, it is corruption that has further weakened civil society. Little remains of the independent press, and the opposition.

Currently, there is arguably no more inspirational example of the struggle for freedom of expression than the cases of prominent human rights attorney Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu, both from Swaziland. On 25 July both received two-year prison sentences for articles they had written criticizing the lack of judicial independence in their country. The Swazi constitution protects their rights to free speech and freedom of expression. But the king’s court overrules such rights to suppress challenges to its rule.

As I speak to you, I am awaiting at any time, to face nine separate trials in Angola, for supposedly having offended seven Angolan generals and two diamond companies. Upon describing more than 100 cases of torture and murdercommitted by personnel employed by them in their private security companies and diamond ventures, I concluded that they are the moral authors of crimes against humanity.

Currently, there is arguably no more inspirational example of the struggle for freedom of expression than the cases of prominent human rights attorney Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu, both from Swaziland. On 25 July both received two-year prison sentences for articles they had written criticizing the lack of judicial independence in their country. The Swazi constitution protects their rights to free speech and freedom of expression. But the king’s court overrules such rights to suppress challenges to its rule.

RTWT

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Angola: rights deteriorate as president’s daughter thrives

Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s president and Africa’s richest woman, made a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.5 billion) bid for Portugal Telecom SGPS SA, Bloomberg reports.

Angola’s government is tightening the noose around free expression, according to a top journalist who has exposed the corruption surrounding the dos Santos family.

Rafael Marques de Morais (below, left) was last arrested in 2013 while covering a court case for his anti-corruption website, Maka Angola, and trying to interview two of the defendants outside the courthouse in Luanda, VOA reports.

rafael marquesStill in the hot seat, he told hundreds of academics, journalists and students who came to hear him speak at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand.

“As I speak to you, I am awaiting at any time, to face nine separate trials in Angola, for supposedly having offended seven Angolan generals and two diamond companies. Upon describing more than 100 cases of torture and murder committed by personnel employed by them in their private security companies and diamond ventures, I concluded that they are the moral authors of crimes against humanity,” he said.  

Pattern of repression

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented numerous instances of arrest, intimidation and killings of journalists in Angola. Since 1992, the year Marques joined the state-owned Jornal de Angola, 10 journalists have been killed on the job, and the CPJ classifies seven of those deaths as murder.

Morais, who has been jailed and faces numerous legal challenges for his investigative work in Angola, said that the African Union is hypocritical for keeping its base in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, the Washington Post reports:

Marques cited the ongoing Ethiopian trial on terrorism-related charges of bloggers from Zone 9, a collective that publishes critical news and commentary. He also mentioned the three-year prison sentence handed last week to Temesgen Desalegn, the former editor of the now-defunct newspaper Feteh who was convicted of charges including incitement.

“The situation has worsened, and it indeed shows the hypocrisy of the African Union as an organization representing all Africans,” Marques said at a lecture held annually in honor of Carlos Cardoso, a Mozambican journalist who was fatally shot in 2000 in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, while investigating a multi-million dollar fraud case.

On September 8, 2014, employees of the private security company, K&P Mineira were secretly filmed torturing two diamond diggers (above), flogging them on the buttocks and the soles of the feet with the flat sides of a machete, Maka Angola reports:

As may be seen in the recording (above), the diamond diggers are being tortured at one of the referred company’s observation posts, located in Luremo commune, inside the Luminas diamond-mining concession…..Since 2004, the journalist Rafael Marques de Morais has been writing reports on the systematic violation of human rights in the Lundas.

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

 

Isabel dos Santos, Her Father, George Soros and Me

rafael marquesSo desperate are pro-regime PR consultants to find a way of attacking Angolan civil society activist Rafael Marques de Morais that they have tried to find impropriety in his former links to the NY-based Open Society Institute (OSI), funded by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Their machinations offer an opportunity to consider the ways in which the Dos Santos regime has tried to neutralizing dissent, he writes.

The question of George Soros is simple. The regime led by Isabel dos Santos’s father has been the main beneficiary of his involvement. Subsequent events bore out what Marques, founder of the anti-corruption website Maka Angola, calls his “disillusionment with the modus operandi of international organisations and the superficial nature of their programs supporting democracy and the struggle for human rights.”

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

RTWT

‘No space for opposition’ in corrupt MPLA’s Angola

rafael marquesAngolan journalists like Rafael Marques (left), who reports on high-level corruption by government officials, are facing the cudgel of criminal defamation, according to the International Press Institute.

Members of Angola’s ruling MPLA elite are conspicuous beneficiaries of lucrative government contracts and sinecures, the FT’s Lionel Barber notes.

Elias Isaac, a burly activist for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, an NGO funded by George Soros, sums up Angola’s postwar challenge, he writes:

“We have a multi-party democracy but we don’t have a pluralist society. There is no space for the opposition.”

Over lunch, Isaac describes how MPLA cells have infiltrated the private sector, while big business is dominated by former generals and the party. “It’s just like Russia – nothing has changed.”

Asked about the new sovereign wealth fund, Isaac says: “The president missed a great opportunity. He could have risked not appointing someone close to him. Instead he confirmed our suspicions of elitism and nepotism.”

RTWT

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption.