27. February 2009

Dos Santos sidesteps human rights criticism

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, on a shopping expedition to Germany this week, sidestepped charges of human right abuse and corruption in Angola.

He has a strong hand as one of the few stable oil producers in Africa, and brushed off critics in Germany, saying he had ³no objection² to joining the movement on transparency. Chancellor Angela Merkel responded that, “Angola is an example of a country that can reach high growth rates.”

Dos Santos visit to Germany followed the release of the US State Departments annual human rights report to Congress, which revealed “widespread” government corruption and numerous abuses of human rights and freedom of expression, particularly surrounding last Septembers parliamentary elections.

Human rights groups also drew media attention to Angolas reluctance to publish its commission of inquiry into the matter. For Dos Santos, there is little motivation to do so.

Dos Santos is seeking German investment in the countrys hydrocarbons sector. He also signed an $800 million deal to buy three naval vessels to patrol the countrys 1,600 km coastline. Currently the US navy is intermittently patrolling the West Coast, but the issue of naval security was lent urgency by the recent seaborne attack on Equatorial Guinea.

Since joining OPEC, Angolas oil production has dropped by 13 percent to 1.6 million barrels a day (SouthScan v24/03). This year, Angola assumed the OPEC presidency, and in the midst of falling prices will likely use that platform to resist further production cuts.

Meanwhile Angolas human rights record, despite the State Department report and foreign NGO criticism, has received almost no play in the region or internationally. (SouthScan)

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