Angola: Need to avoid instability ‘danger’ in elections – Portugal ex-minister

Angola’s leaders should for the good of the country seek to avoid “the danger” of instability in the next presidential elections, with dialogue between the current head of state and his predecessor, warned a former minister of foreign affairs for Portugal and retired diplomat with important experience in the country on Tuesday.

António Monteiro, who is now chairman the board of directors of Portugal’s Millennium BCP Foundation, and who during his long diplomatic career held several positions at the United Nations, said in an interview with Lusa about the upcoming summit of heads of state and government of the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries (CPLP) that he trusts “the good sense of the current president of Angola” – João Lourenço – as well as the country’s people.

“Deep down, I think he has a strong connection with the former president [José Eduardo dos Santos], because he [Lourenço] was his choice,” Monteiro said, referring to the fact that dos Santos tapped Lourenço as his successor when he decided not to stand again in the 2017 elections, having been in power since 1979.

Since Lourenço took over, major rifts have emerged between the current government and figures associated with its predecessor, with prosecutions underway against political associates and family members of the former president.

“Angolans cannot be expected to return to violence,” argued Monteiro, saying that he hoped that they were “vaccinated” against that possibility. 

“They have had so many years of war, which destroyed everything, that they should now realise that differences are resolved democratically and through free and fair elections” and not “by force,” the former mnister stressed. 

Monteiro, who among may other roles in 1991 led the Temporary Mission of Portugal to the Peace Process Structures in Angola and was representative to the Political-Military Joint Committee in Luanda (1991), said that he foresaw “some turbulence” in Angola in the coming years, saying that “like Brazil, [it] is a large, special” country “that has immense potential, but also has risks.”

Angola, which at the CPLP summit scheduled for 16 and 17 July in Luand ais to take on the rotating presidency of the organisation, has presidential elections scheduled for 2022.

However, Monteiro does not think that any political instability in Angola will pose “risks” to the CPLP.

“On the contrary, Angola is one of the pivotal countries, because of its size, its economic capacity, for what it will represent in the future,” he said, adding that it was also “very important that Angola understands that the presidency of the CPLP is a great opportunity for its own reputation, as a country and as leadership capacity.”

With regard to corruption, political instability and some anti-democratic practices that persist in several CPLP member states, and which have been criticised by the international community, Monteiro acknowledged that “these are real problems” but considered that “there are clear improvements” underway.

He cited as one example the fight against corruption in Angola, while adding the proviso that “of course it may have other contours, we do not know” – a reference to internal political wrangling. 

“This is an Angolan problem, not ours, they will judge,” he said. “But there has been enormous progress, because we are talking openly about what is happening, about each person’s position. And the president has been very clear, since he took office, on the path he wanted to take.”

As for Equatorial Guinea, which joined the CPLP in 2014 amid some controversy, Monteiro now advocates “constructive help” for the country, but at the same time with “demanding” conditions. 

“We have to face the fact that Equatorial Guinea is a member of the community, and help the country evolve as quickly as possible,” he said, in a reference to the fact that its government hs been accused of many abuses. 

According to Monteiro, “it is necessary to maintain constructive dialogue” with such countries, because “a rupture does not help regimes or peoples, it does not help development.” 

As a result, while “obviously not accepting of flagrant violations and repression of the legitimate rights of the populations, we must and can within the CPLP be a positive factor for Equatorial Guinea to advance more quickly in the field of democracy,” he argued.

Monteiro recalled that commitments made by the country remain unfulfilled: “There has been progress, but … not at the pace we would like, at a pace of its own, also imposed by the internal conditions.”

Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, became a full member of the CPLP in July 2014, after signing up to an “accession roadmap” that included the implementation of Portuguese as an official language and the abolition of the death penalty – a measure that has yet to be ratified by Equatorial Guinea’s long-time president, Teodoro Obiang.

The CPLP’s member states are Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe.