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Angolan opposition: 'People are eating animal feed'

June 18, 2021

In an exclusive interview with DW, Angolan opposition leader Manuel Fernandes criticizes ongoing corruption. He explains why his party is not a member of the "united front" opposition movement.

Angola Manuel Fernandes Vizechef der Partei CASA-CE
Image: DW/P. B. Ndomba

Angola has a "totally bankrupt economy" as a result of bad governance and the economic and health crises, said Manuel Fernandes, leader of CASA-CE, the second biggest opposition group in Angola.

The current situation of the population is deplorable, he told DW in his exclusive interview.

"I am coming from the interior [of the country] and hunger, misery and poverty have taken over the population in the whole extension of the territ ory. In some areas like in the municipality of Chongoroi [in Benguela province] there are people eating animal feed."

Fernandes accused the rulers — especially of the administration of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos — of stealing.

Angola: Has the era of corrupt elites passed?

Corruption cases have been exposed as well during the administration of the current president, Joao Lourenco.

Recently, 24 high-ranking soldiers of the military wing of the Angolan presidency were detained in the so called Operation Crab. One of them, Pedro Lussati, was arrested when he supposedly tried to leave the country travelling with $10 million (€8.42 million) and €4 million ($4.75 million) in cash.

Crusade against corruption: 'New reality'

Manuel Fernandes said that this case has once again ruined Angola's international image. 

"Because when this happens at the epicenter of power it is something very serious," he told DW.

However, Fernandes admitted some progress made by current President Joao Lourenco's "crusade against corruption." 

"The country, we must recognize, is experiencing a new reality because in the past there was impunity," he said.

"The rulers did and undid and were untouchable. This does not happen today. What happens is trying to moralize society to create respect for what is public."  

Publicly, many voices speak of selectivity in the fight against corruption since Joao Lourenco took office in 2017 after 38 years of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as long-term president of Angola.

Angola I Präsident Joao Lourenco
Incumbent President Joao Lourenco has pledged to tackle corruptionImage: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Manuel Fernandes also complained that there is a lack of inclusion in these processes.

"There are several perpetrators who have already been denounced publicly who have not cooperated with justice in due time," said Fernandes. "Those people have stolen what belongs to others, but so far nothing has been done to make them accountable in court. But there are others who were indicted only recently and have already been tried and convicted."

This year, Andre Mendes de Carvalh — nicknamed "Miau" — was removed from office as head of CASA-CE and replaced by Manuel Fernandes after a series of internal conflicts in the coalition. "CASA-CE today recommends itself and is closer to the citizens. We have a cohesive, strong, dynamic and vigorous CASA-CE", said Fernandes.

So-called united front 'didn't contact us'

Despite this vigor, the coalition has been criticized for not joining the so-called united front of the opposition, made up of Angolans biggest opposition party UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), and the smaller Bloco Democrático (Democratic Bloc).

Followers of Abel Chivukuvuku, the historical founder of CASA-CE, are also engaging this "united front" that has been led by Adalberto da Costa Junior and being perceived as a serious threat to the rule of MPLA, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola that has been governing the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975.

Angolan opposition politician Manuel Fernandes
Angolan opposition politician Manuel FernandesImage: DW/B. Ndomba

Questioned on the matter, Manuel Fernandes did not recognize the existence of such a front.

On behalf of CASA-CE he said, his party had not been contacted to join ranks.

"In practice, what will exist is a broad adherence to the UNITA list. Because I don't believe that UNITA will give up its symbols to create a new coalition to go to the elections. If they didn't contact us, it's because the others understood that they don't need us."

The next general elections are scheduled for 2022.

But there is still no date set for the first local elections in the history of Angola. They have been postponed several times and should have taken place in 2020, but no new date has been set.

The CASA-CE leader called for elections in the near future.

"The general elections are expected to be held in July or August, so our view is that the municipal elections should be held earlier. Let alone if it's not possible, then we could kill two birds with one stone. It is to be simultaneous", said Manuel Fernandes.

The interview was conducted by Manuel Luamba (Luanda) and translated by Johannes Beck.