An­gola pres­i­dent meets anti-graft cam­paigner

Gulf Times - - AFRICA -

An An­golan ac­tivist crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day met Pres­i­dent Joao Lourenco, a day af­ter he was barred from en­ter­ing the pres­i­den­tial palace as part of an un­prece­dented civil so­ci­ety del­e­ga­tion.

Anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paigner and jour­nal­ist Rafael Mar­ques, con­sid­ered a bug-bear of the au­thor­i­ties, met Lourenco to dis­cuss the is­sue of graft in the oil-rich but poor south­ern African coun­try.

Mar­ques, who has been con­victed of var­i­ous crimes linked to his in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing, was among a group of ac­tivists due to meet Lourenco for un­prece­dented talks on Tues­day.

But at the last minute palace aides blocked Mar­ques from meet­ing the head of state who has pub­licly pro­claimed his com­mit­ment to the fight against cor­rup­tion.

Mar­ques praised the pres­i­dent’s “noble ges­ture” and hailed his “open­ness”.

“Ob­vi­ously we spoke about cor­rup­tion,” he told jour­nal­ists fol­low­ing the 45 minute en­counter.

“I think the con­tri­bu­tion of so­ci­ety to moral­ity...is im­por­tant so that cor­rup­tion is no longer a can­cer that eats away at so­ci­ety and saps our re­sources.”

Lourenco took power a year ago af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor Jose Ed­uardo dos San­tos’ 38-year rule of steel.

He quickly dis­tanced him­self from his one-time men­tor and clamped down on Dos San­tos’ chil­dren who had as­sumed cen­tral roles in the eco­nomic sec­tor.

The for­mer pres­i­dent’s son is in prison as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of state funds.

“Cor­rup­tion isn’t the pre­serve of min­is­ters — there’s also petty cor­rup­tion which af­fects ev­ery­one,” said Mar­ques.

He added that he had raised the “plight” of the An­golan peo­ple in his pres­i­den­tial one-to-one.

“Peo­ple need to be able to eat to en­joy democ­racy,” said Mar­ques.

An­gola has been locked in a grave eco­nomic cri­sis in the wake of 2014’s fall in the price of oil which is the coun­try’s largest ex­port.

De­spite its riches of black gold, the sec­ond largest on the African con­ti­nent af­ter Nige­ria, An­gola re­mains a deeply poor coun­try which Lourenco has vowed to re­vive.

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