This year may prove to be a critical year in Angola’s political development. The upcoming parliamentary elections are an important chance to move toward democratization. There will not be a presidential election as the presidency now goes to the leading candidate of the party who wins the general election, a completely unique selection mechanism (VoA). While there is an active opposition (UNITA still lives on), it is relatively weak. Dos Santos will likely remain President.
There are some positive developments in Angolan politics. While it is unlikely that it accurately conveyed the full human rights situation, Angola did– for the first time–present a report on its current human rights situation to the African Commission on People and Human Rights (Angpop). Their report is available here: Republic of Angola: Implementation of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights. It should be noted that a number of African countries have never participated in the process and most have only issued 1-3 reports (ACHPR).
Angola and Central/Southern Africa
It is never entirely clear whether Angola fits best within our conventional understanding of “southern” or “central” Africa. Certainly, when viewed as part of the later, it is the dominant sub-regional power. Angola, however, may find its influence somewhat diminished by the recent coup in Guinea-Bissau. Angola has had a significant economic and military partnership with the ousted leadership and, as a brief statement by Executive Analysis suggests, the new regime is likely going to want to reduce at least some of Angola’s influence. That said, the coup planners have faced a number of important obstacles. It is still possible things will go Angola’s way.
Angola and Europe
Angolan-European relations continue to remain strong. Angola and the European Union are reportedly close to a new economic partnership deal (Reuters). This is being compared with the “strategic partnerships” Angola is or has negotiated with the US, China and others. Cooperation extends to political areas as well. Angola also reportedly invited the EU to send observers to monitor the election later this year (iol news).
Finally, Angola made a little bit of a splash in the news last fall when it became apparent that the former colony was now providing the investment its former colonial masters in Portugal sorely need. There apparently has been a little bit of a backlash, however, prompting Angola’s ambassador to defend those investments (Angop).
Angola and the US
Recent reporting by the Financial Times highlights a scandal in Angola-American relations. Three Angolan officials secretly had interests in a Houston-based Cobalt International Energy oil venture. The allegation is that these officials were bought off by Cobalt, making Cobalt potentially liable under US anti-corruption laws. One of these Angolan officials is Manuel Vicente, the recent head of state-owned Sonangol and widely regarded as a potential eventual successor to President Dos Santos (African Diplomacy).
The Cobalt story probably first broke at Maka Angola, a site dedicated to anti-corruption in Angola.