Africa Image Live


Grab the widget  Tech Dreams

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

As the corrupt dictator of Gabon dies,another in Angola is accused of 'squandering oil billions'

By Declan Walsh in Luanda

As the threat of starvation sweeps across war-ravaged Angola, its secretive government is coming under pressure to explain how billions of pounds in oil revenues have gone missing.

A fresh humanitarian crisis has hit Angola since fighting with Unita rebels ended in April. Three million people are on the edge of famine.

Angola's President, Eduardo dos Santos, has appealed for international help, pleading that his government is broke.

But a swelling chorus of diplomats, campaigners and angry Angolans is asking why he is unable to pay his way out of trouble when his government earns billions of pounds from a burgeoning oil exploration business that will soon rival that of Nigeria as Africa's largest.

And while only a tiny amount is spent on helping suffering Angolans, every year a large chunk of the profits – between 20 and 35 per cent – mysteriously disappears. Last year, for example, the International Monetary Fund estimated the oil revenues at £2bn, of which £750m simply vanished.

Campaigners such as the UK advocacy group Global Witness call it "wholesale state robbery". They say that Angola's vast oil profits are disappearing into the pockets of the Futungo – a secret, powerful élite linked to President dos Santos – on a scale similar to the excesses of the notorious kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire.

Western oil companies such as BP, Shell and Chevron stand accused of refusing to reveal their annual payments to the Angolan government.

Patrick Nicholson of Cafod, a British aid agency involved in a "Publish What You Pay" campaign, said: "Billions of pounds have gone missing, money that should be used to buy food and medicine and reconstruct the country. Oil companies could play an important part in bringing the government to book."

The campaigners, led by the American financier George Soros, hope that Tony Blair, the French President, Jacques Chirac, and other world leaders will endorse the initiative at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg next week.

In a submission to the United Nations Security Council, a British official pointed out that the UN is struggling to raise £147m for Angola – the equivalent of three weeks' oil profits for the government.

Just where the missing billions have gone is unclear, but the dilapidated streets of Luanda offer some clues. Fleets of the latest BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar cars roar along the sewage-laced roads past the armies of ragged, homeless people on the pavements.

Many are driven by government employees or associates. But it goes deeper. Earlier this year Global Witness published the number of a $1bn bank account in the British Virgin Islands. The money was controlled, it says, by unnamed figures connected to the Futungo.

The Futungo, a cabal of powerful military, business and political figures, is shrouded in mystery. It is thought to consist of about 200 families; analysts refer to it as Angola's "parallel government".

But a glossy magazine called Tropical, sold on Luanda's street corners, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the exclusive set. Hello!-style photo spreads show designer-clad Angolans enjoying themselves; the latest issue features parties in London, Lisbon and Luanda.

The extravagance contrasts with the lives of most of Angola's 13 million people, who have slim hopes of getting a job, an education or even staying alive for very long; the average life expectancy is 45.

The ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) denies corruption but acknowledges the need for changes in how oil money is spent.

But the rot has spread to all levels of governance.In the eastern town of Luena, the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has cut aid to the local hospital because supplies kept disappearing. These days it is a dirty place of broken windows and suffering patients.

But the hospital director is doing better. Dr Carlos Alberto dresses in smart suits, wears an Yves Saint Laurent tie and drives a new Suzuki jeep. "The situation is very difficult," he said in his air- conditioned office, the only one in the building. "The support we receive from the government is not enough to cover our problems."

1 comment:

Africa Watch said...

Are the rest of the corrupt leaders in Africa listening to what people are saying or writing about Omar Bong? Some say he was corrupt, others say he was a thief, others also believe he brought peace to his country but the US has accused his government of gross human rights violations however his corrupt Friends in Europe especially France who pampered him and protected him so he could steal, torture and deliver poverty to his people say he was a loyal ally, a compliant African leader who did what he was told without question but you what do you say?

AllAfrica News: Latest

Pambazuka News :Comment & analysis