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  • on 31.03.2016
  • at 11:40 AM
  • by Kimberley Evans

The deep economic and political crises in Angola 1

There’s a lot going on in Angola. Western media have extensively covered the trial and detention of the so-called book club (really a civic activists study group on protest) and the imprisonment of Cabinda activist Marcos Mavungo to the exclusion of other questions.

The 15+2 activists, how the book club is known, and Mavungo highlighted economic mismanagement and corruption in their critiques of the government. Meanwhile, a related crisis, the government’s navigation of the ongoing economic crisis (the price of oil plummeted with no prospect of resurgence any time soon), has received less attention outside of the business press.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines economic rights – like the right to an adequate standard of living and to work. Yet most human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etcetera) opt for the more idealistic political rights – freedom of political expression, freedom of association and assembly. It may be why we don´t hear much in the international press about the economic crisis that squeezes daily life for ordinary Angolans more than politics.

Three other events since the beginning of 2016, equally as important as political human rights issues, are also shaping the political scene and refracting the economic crisis.

The first is the passing, on February 27th, of Lúcio Lara, an historic leader of the ruling MPLA during the armed struggle and first decade of independence. Lara was considered the successor to first president, Agostino Neto, but stepped aside so current president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, could become leader in 1979 . Lara, who clashed with profligate MPLA leaders, effectively retired from politics when the MPLA made the transition from Marxism to neoliberalism in the late 1980s.

Eulogies proliferated. Many read these as critiques of the current regime.

The political scientist and long time Angola observer, Gerald Bender, remembered Lara on his Facebook page. He  noted that Lara was known as “o duro” (a hardliner to Washington, hard to keep in line to Moscow, hardcore in terms of his discipline within the MPLA). Mostly, Bender opined, he was a strong nationalist.

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