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Angola. In search of the lost billions.

According to the main opposition party, UNITA, over US $ 170 billion of oil revenues are missing and it urges President dos Santos to tell where they’ve gone.

The late Angola specialist, French political scientist Christine Messiant and some of her colleagues revealed some 16 years ago, the existence a “Bermuda Triangle”, where oil revenues used to disappear, located somewhere between the national oil company, Sonangol, the Banco Nacional de Angola and the Ministry of Finances. Apparently, since then, nothing has really changed Indeed, at the end of last April, the president of the main opposition party, UNITA, Isaias Samakuva challenged President José Eduardo dos Santos to tell Angolan citizens where have disappeared over US $ 170 billion of missing oil revenues.

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In an interview with Southworld at the end of last April, Samakuva denies that the fall of oil prices since the last quarter of 2014 is the real cause for the current country’s economic crisis. « Since 2014, the oil price has fallen and the governement declared that the national economy was in crisis. But we wonder why there should be such a crisis since Angola should boast from the resources of the Reserve Fund for the difference between the world price and the budgeted price”, explains Samakuva. The Fund which was created in 2006 was indeed supposed to be supplied by the difference between both prices which became sizeable with a budgeted price of about U.S. $ 55 per barrel in 2011 and $ 85 later on while the world price stood well above and even peaked at $ 112 in 2014.

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According to UNITA’s estimates – which are considered as exaggerate by the Angolan authorities – by end 2014, these financial reserves should have amounted to $ 37 billion. Besides, argues Samakuva, the state should also boast from other oil revenues such as the Funds from the Strategic Financial Reserve for Basic Infrastructure managed by the Presidency, oil bonuses on licenses and the Sovereign Fund of Angola, chaired by the President’s son, José Filomeno de Sous dos Santos, aka “Zenu”. Altogether, these reserves should amount to more than $ 170 billion, over three times the equivalent of the national budget and the effects of the oil prices fall should have been considerably mitigated, pursues Samakuva.

No answer

For more than a year, UNITA and other opposition parties have been asking for explanations about the destination of all this money.« But there is no answer ! We are saying that because there is no reason why a crisis should have been declared, although in reality, we must admit that there is a crisis and it is visible. There is no hard currencies in the banks and the national currency, the kwanza, has lost three quarters of its value against the dollar. One needs to go on the informal market to get currencies. And there, the exchange rate of the dollar is four times higher than the legal rate”, explains Samakuva.

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The UNITA leader is convinced there is a connection between the existence of offshore accounts owned by Angolan elite members, such the Minister of Oil, José Botelho de Vasconcelos, whose account in the Samoa Islands tax haven has been revealed by the Panama Papers and the disappearance of the oil money. At the same time, Samakuva is not really surprised. Indeed, it’s a standard practice for Angolan rulers to own such offshore accounts, he says. Allegedly, there is no transparency in the management of public funds. “There have been stories of such accounts in Luxemburg and Switzerland owned by rulers – including President dos Santos. Botelho de Vasconcelos is probably not the only owner of such accounts. There also companies which are connected with the President’s son, Zenu dos Santos” claims Isaias Samakuva.
UNITA has also asked for a judiciary investigation into the disappearance of the missing funds and urged the Angolan Court of Auditors to identify the destination of these funds. But according to Samakuva, no one lifts a finger. “The judiciary does not work well and everyone is afraid of the President”, he says. In front of such circumstances, UNITA urges the International Monetary Fund which has been requested by the Angolan government to support an economic program to diversify the economy and safeguard macroeconomic and financial stability to open its own investigation. “There must be such enquiry because it’s the people’s money that has vanished !” argues Samakuva.

 Future elections

The UNITA leader also raised the issue during an European tour at the end of April in Brussels with European Commission officials and with the German Christian Democrat Member of the European Parliament, Michael Gahler. The matter has also political consequences, he told his interlocutors. Indeed, the economic crisis triggered a political crisis. There is a general discontent among the population, pursues the UNITA leader. “Citizens cannot afford to buy medicines and basic food products such as milk, bread, rice and beans. Prices have soared whereas wages stood at the same level. On top of that, garbage is piling up in Luanda and in the main cities of the country. Epidemics such as malaria and yellow fever are spreading. Within this context, the government is trying to buy time in order to restore the situation and organise elections in a comfortable position”, says Isaias Samakuva.

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The ruling MPLA party is trying to delay the forthcoming parliament elections scheduled in August 2017, accuses the UNITA leader. Indeed, he points out, although the government officially agrees upon the essential preparatory tasks for the elections, it has failed to implement them. These include the review of the electoral law and of the elections observation law and the registration of voters which should have been done several months ago. The financial crisis is just an excuse to delay the process, considers the UNITA leader who thinks that the main purpose is to keep in office President José Eduardo dos Santos whose mandate expires as well in August 2017, as long as possible. Moreover, Isaias Samakuva, does not believe that the President will leave the office in 2018 as he told the MPLA Congress last March. “This is not the first time, that President dos Santos is making this kind of statement. The President says he will leave power in 2018. But the ideal and logical moment to do it is rather 2017, the elections date. Therefore, we think that his announcement is rather intended at defusing social tensions by giving the false hope that he will leave…”, thinks Samakuva.

 François Misser

 

 

 

 

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