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.


Afghanistan: nurturing political space

afghanpollwikicommonsAfghanistan has made major albeit uneven development progress since 2001 – high economic growth, improvements in social indicators, some investments in government institutions and infrastructure, but weaker performance in agriculture and the urban sector, and deteriorating governance, analyst William A Byrd writes in Afghanistan: Nurturing Political Space for Development, a briefing for Chatham House,  the Royal Institute for International Affairs.

Where progress has been achieved, the ingredients of success have been effective Afghan leadership and management teams in key ministries; ‘political space’ for them to take forward development initiatives; and containment of corruption in the sectors and activities concerned. However, political space for development has shrunk in recent years with the consolidation of an entrenched political elite and worsening corruption. 

The new Afghan administration may have a window of opportunity to arrest negative trends and restore or expand political space for development. Conducive political incentives, longer time horizons, and the appointment of competent, empowered leadership and management teams in key ministries will be crucial in this regard.

 The international community will need to support and help nurture political space for development and facilitate the necessary prioritization of increasingly limited aid resources. The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework could, through a focused set of policies and actions, provide a foundation to support progress, secure international funding and constructively hold the new Afghan government accountable for its commitments.

Overall, the international community needs to be supportive while encouraging the new Afghan government to engage in meaningful, even if modest, pro-development policies and investments. A ‘do no harm’ approach also is important – for example, avoiding inadvertent detraction from government efforts to prioritize development programmes and funding.

Preventing and responding effectively to corruption or other irregularities in its own ranks is an extremely important element of a ‘do no harm’ approach by the international community. More generally, donors must also ensure that the Afghan government’s responsiveness to the priorities and concerns of the international community does not detract from its accountability towards its own population.


How to help China’s anti-corruption reformers


Proposed new bilateral investment treaties would improve transparency and help tackle corruption in China, says Robert Zoellick, a former World Bank president, US trade representative and deputy secretary of state:

Chinese reformers believe that bilateral investment treaties will help them fight favouritism and corruption, remove onerous regulations that choke market competition, improve uneven law enforcement, and shrink the advantages enjoyed by state-owned enterprises. As one Chinese official told me, if the authorities offer equal and fair treatment to foreigners, China’s private sector can demand the same. Reformers recognise that small and medium-sized enterprises would be the biggest winners from fairly enforced economic rules.

“Bilateral treaties, technical though they might be, can be potent tools,” says Zoellick, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “They can assist China’s market reforms, deepen constructive economic ties with the west, and strengthen the international rule of law. They also offer a positive agenda to buffer inevitable differences,” he writes for The Financial Times.

But reports suggest that the ruling Communist Party is resorting to more familiar and less technocratic approaches to curbing corruption, while cracking down on grassroots anti-graft campaigners, including Xu Zhiyong, the “quiet lawyer holding Beijing to account” and the broader New Citizens Movement (see above).

Brutality yields graft confessions

The anti-corruption crackdown has netted officials at most levels of government, many of whom have been investigated and questioned under an internal disciplinary process called shuanggui, China Digital Times reports. While stories have emerged about mistreatment and harsh conditions in shuanggui facilities, the AP’s Gillian Wong gives a detailed account of torture from four local officials held in Hunan:

Zhou, land bureau director for the city of Liling, was confined in the party’s secret detention system at a compound in central Hunan, touted as a model center for anti-corruption efforts. Nobody on the outside could help him, because nobody knew where he was.

In a rare act of public defiance, Zhou and three other party members in Hunan described to The Associated Press the months of abuse they endured less than two years ago, in separate cases, while in detention. Zhou said he was deprived of sleep and food, nearly drowned, whipped with wires and forced to eat excrement. The others reported being turned into human punching bags, strung up by the wrists from high windows, or dragged along the floor, face down, by their feet.

All said they talked to the AP despite the risk of retaliation because they were victims of political vendettas and wanted to expose what had happened. Party representatives contacted by the AP denied the abuses had taken place.

[…] Wang Qiuping, party secretary of an industrial park in Ningyuan, said he was slapped often and forced to stand and kneel for hours during a detention of 313 days. His deputy Xiao Yifei told the AP he was hooded for more than a month and beaten up by an interrogator who went by the nickname “Tang the Butcher.” Xiao provided the AP with a receipt from a local party discipline office showing his sister paid 35,000 yuan, or $5,700, in “violation fees” to secure his release after 208 days. And Fan Qiqing, a contractor, said he was kicked and lashed with a metal whip and wooden plank during his 431-day detention and forced to take hallucinogenic drugs.

A Ningyuan party official who refused to give his name said the investigation involving all three men was carried out in a “civilized manner” and no one was tortured.

In April, a suspect died during a shuanggui investigation. Read more about the anti-corruption drive and about shuanggui, via CDT.

Corruption fears over Indonesian polls



As Indonesia prepares to elect a new parliament and president in the coming months, Deutsche Welle examines how political graft is undermining the Southeast Asian country’s democratic and economic achievements of the past decade.

Many analysts regard Indonesia’s accomplishments after the overthrow of longstanding authoritarian ruler Suharto in 1998 as remarkable. The world’s largest Muslim democracy with more than 250 million people has not only managed to expand its economy at an average rate of 5.5 percent over the past decade.

It has also undertaken “one of the most ambitious institutional reform programs attempted anywhere,” by rapidly decentralizing power, creating a constitutional court and a powerful anti-corruption commission,” according to the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI). …..

NDI Senior Program Officer David Caragliano argues in a recently published article on that with no clear presidential front-runner and a higher parliamentary threshold for parties to enter the national legislature, the elections could be the most closely contested in the nation’s history. Therefore, he argues, “the incentives for increased electoral manipulation, vote buying and fraud are clear, at a time when the independence and competence of electoral administrative bodies are increasingly under question.”


Nigeria’s anti-graft bank governor to fight ‘bombshell’ suspension

nigeriaLamido_Sanusi_2011_ShankbonePresident Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria removed the governor of the country’s central bank from his post on Thursday, after the bank governor repeatedly charged that billions of dollars in oil revenue owed to the treasury was missing, the New York Times reports:

The dismissal of the bank governor, Lamido Sanusi (left), was seen as further evidence of the Nigerian government’s weakening resolve in tackling widespread corruption, a problem that has plagued the country since independence, analysts said.

Exactly how much money may be missing is unclear, as Mr. Sanusi acknowledged in a letter to the Nigerian Senate this month. It could be “$10.8 billion or $12 billion or $19 billion or $21 billion — we do not know at this point,” he wrote, adding that the apparent diversion “has been going on for a long time” and could “bring the entire economy to its knees” if it is not stopped.

But he may have taken on too big an opponent in the national oil company. The sprawling company acts as the country’s oil buyer, seller, explorer, producer, processor and regulator, and is “at the nexus between the many interests in Nigeria that seek a stake in the country’s oil riches,” according to a 2010 Stanford University study.

“Sanusi has long been the proverbial gnat in Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s ear, a constant irritation and this month the source of explosive allegations that could interfere with Mr Jonathan’s rumored bid for re-election next year,” says analyst William Wallis:

But the decision to suspend Mr Sanusi from his position as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) could cost Nigeria dearly. Together with the nomination on Thursday of a successor perceived as less challenging, it stunned investors and sent the naira plummeting to historic lows.

Anticorruption activists said that explanation for his dismissal would not be widely believed, the Times adds.

“Nigerians will see it as the result of the whistle he has blown on the non-remittances by the N.N.P.C. to the Federation Account,” said Dauda Garuba of the Revenue Watch Institute, which is supported by George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, among others. “Public opinion agrees with Sanusi.”

Another watchdog group, the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, said that Mr. Sanusi’s removal exposed “the wider ramifications and impunity of corruption currently bedeviling the fiscal responsibility and accountability of this government.”

In Nigeria, grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy, such as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), have urged the US to use its leverage to “press the government to exercise political will in fighting high level corruption.”

It is as yet unclear what Sanusi’s “suspension” means, says Council on Foreign Relations analyst John Campbell:

The Central Bank is supposed to be independent of the government; the governor may be removed only by the National Assembly, not the president, and only with cause. The presidential statement announcing the suspension refers to on-going investigations into “breaches of enabling laws, due process, and mandate of the Central Bank.” Sanusi says he will fight the “suspension” to preserve the Central Bank’s independence. At the very least, his “suspension” raises questions about how real the independence of the Central Bank will be.