In the good old days of dictatorial rule and brutal oppression, evil leaders had it pretty darn easy. And by “good old days,” I mean before the Internet. Borders and methods of communication were much easier to control and limit. In the most oppressed and generally horrible examples of despotic rule, like North Korea, Albania, Cambodia, Cuba, the former Soviet Union, and (past and present day) China, you could get away with (lots of) murder and nobody would be tweeting about it five minutes later. Ditto for exposing how horrible someone else’s life is compared to yours. North Korea where the people are starving, tortured and censored to the hilt. It seems that things are getting much dicier for the rulers of the oppressed, thanks to social media and the freely disseminated forms of communication which are increasingly impossible to control.
But you have to hand it to Angola’s dictator, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, for trying to stuff that genie back into the bottle. Much like making sausage, it’s really disgusting to watch. But to turn away from what is happening to Angola, right this second, is to allow brutality free reign, and to be complicit in the sealing up of borders, both literal and virtual. To me, it feels like watching the opposite of birth. The opposite of freedom. The opposite of progress. It feels like watching someone have nails shoved into their body, millimeter by millimeter, until the life in them is extinguished. But why do I care about Angola? It’s a place I’ve never been to, a place where no one I know, in real life, resides. I’ve never had African food, except Ethiopian, which is delicious, and I know very little about African music and culture.
So, why bother? I write about climate change and energy policy, and while Angola has a dearth of natural resources such as oil and diamonds, it’s not like I think Angola is contributing to global warming. But here’s the thing: if you allow yourself to fully let in the fact (and it is a fact) that we are from Africa, that we are all from the same hallowed grounds, and even though people in Angola do not look much like me, we are, indeed brothers and sisters, all from the same good fortune to have evolved into human beings, well, then Africa, and, by extension, Angola are my homeland, too. I feel this so deeply that it can’t be put into words. If you look at a satellite photo of the African continent:
And then look at how it has been carved up, politically:
The borders are arbitrary, illogical, divisive, and unstable. I bought a thrift shop globe which had no manufacturing date on it; however, primarily studying the changes on the African continent, I was able to date it to within a few months of its creation (it’s 40 years old!). Can you see Rhodesia, for example, in the south?:
Colonialism, internecine war, famine, drought, proxy wars…Africa has unfortunately seen it all. And dictators like Eduardo Jose dos Santos learned from the best. Once, and until, we feel that pain inflicted on one of our brothers or sisters in Baltimore is no more or less acceptable than that same injustice to a brother or sister in Luanda, will we move past our evolutionary tribal pettiness. It is possible, but it’s not easy. Our self serving politicians would have us buy into “globalism” via trade deals, barriers, and tariffs only to line their own pockets. But the very definition of globalism should not be based on monetary benefits, but more meaningfully and far more importantly in troubled times, around our shared identity as a species which is connected to, and part of, planet Earth. Indeed, a more correct visual would be that we’re all passengers on this third rock from the Sun, with a shared fate.
Back to Angola...
The dos Santos family and their co-conspirators are hammering the final nails into the coffin that encases Angola. They have gradually moved enormous financial assets out of the country, taking control of the banking sector, the oil and gas sector, and the diamond and precious mineral sector, just to name a few. The Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund has been nested into too many shell companies to count, they’ve got control of health care (which is next to nothing, literally stuck in the 18th century in many parts of the country), and the final coupe de grâce is playing out in real time, right before our eyes.
Isabel dos Santos and her family own the means of telecommunications – and this is where the genie ⇒ bottle metaphor comes in. I can see, just by looking at the traffic to my own websites and posts about Angola, that the vast and overwhelming majority of ways that Angolans interact with the Internet are controlled and owned by the dos Santos family. Unitel, Angola Telecom, MSTelecom – they’re all the same, just made to look different. The “Angolan state,” “Sonangol,” all = the dos Santos family. Just by giving them different names doesn’t mean, in the Age of Information, we can’t figure out they’re ALL OWNED BY THE SAME PEOPLE.
And, much like China, or North Korea, or the former Soviet Union, the Angolan government’s increasing control of whatever information comes in, and goes out, means that the people in Angola are “flying blind,” unaware of what is happening to them, and around them. Here in the US, we have a small number of media giants (last time I checked it was 7 or 8) who control much, if not all, of the mainstream media messaging. But at least we can, if we want to, access outside sources. Many Americans, being complacent and reasonably placated, will not bother…but the fact is that we CAN. There is no way such freedoms can be suitably silenced here. The Chinese have had their way with much of the Internet’s traffic into and out of their country for a while now, but even they are losing the battle. In North Korea, unfortunately, they had a head start and they have a smaller population to control.
The latest assault on Angolan freedom
Just last week, a heavy blow was dealt to freedom of expression and independent reporting in Angola. It’s a vicious twist of the knife for those who are desperate to connect with each other, and for those who want to know what’s actually going on in Angola and outside Angola.
The Angolan Legislature passed something called the Journalist Statute, which can be read about here in English and here in Portuguese. This Statute outlines very strict guidelines for anyone who wants to publish anything in, or about Angola, on the Internet or anywhere else, stating that if a journalist doesn’t meet their (made up) “guidelines”about what constitutes acceptable journalism:
“Journalists who do not have a professional badge will be sanctioned with a fine in the amount of ten minimum salaries of the civil service and triple in case of each recurrence.”
Okay, so that’s utterly ridiculous.It seeks to censure not only journalism coming out of Angola, but also social media and reporting going into Angola, regardless of which server it is on, which network, and where the source is located.
pawn idiot sell-out mouthpiece for Dictator dos Santos is this guy, so, enough said.
During the same legislative session, the Angolan government passed another Statute meant to control radio and television broadcasting. This one is so bad that only this guy could love it…
“Adopted at the 4th Extraordinary Plenary Meeting of the 4th Legislative Session of the 3rd Legislature, the bill stipulates the value of 250 million kwanzas as minimum capital for national and international coverage operators.
The diploma also provides the minimum capital of 75 million for the local coverage operators.”
250 million kwanzas is, by the way, $1,508,430 dollars, and 75 million kwanzas is $452,529 dollars. So that’s ridiculous and obscene and meant to terrorize and put journalists, bloggers, announcers…anyone they don’t like, out of business, and behind bars.
The dos Santos family owns and controls virtually everything of value, and even what’s not of much value, in Angola. By owning and controlling telecommunications, they can effectively control whatever information is trying to reach Angolans. By further legislating away the ability for those inside of Angola to say a word they don’t approve of, the noose is being further tightened. Like a giant sinkhole that is sucking up everything around it, the voices and power of the people in Angola are being extinguished. If the dos Santos family has its way, Angola will not be unlike a dystopian penal colony, with citizens left no choice except to help enrich those in power. Thanks to an international energy and finance community of shared silence which has allowed these atrocities to go on, virtually unchallenged, for nearly 40 years, the ink is about to be dry on legislation which will muzzle the only reliable information to come out of Angola. It’s time for the world to step up and properly identify the billions of dollars coming out of Angola as being the rightful property of those who are being oppressed, those who reside in the cradle of our shared humanity.
But what can you DO to help?
There is one universal human emotion which affects all of us except, perhaps, sociopaths. Maybe half of the dos Santos family (and definitely Sindika Dokolo, Isabel dos Santos’ husband) are most likely sociopathic. But I don’t think she is. Her father, the dictator, is untouchable in that way. He truly does not give a damn. Zero conscious, remorse, anything. I’d go so far as to say he’s dead inside, emotionally. But the social media campaigns, attempts at public relations, and the deep and desperate desire to be accepted by fellow billionaires and celebrities abroad indicates a chink in their armor, so to speak. Think about it this way (as if you’re in the dos Santos clan): those are people who literally hate their own people. What does that say about themselves? If they look around with contempt and disgust when they’re back home in Angola, what do you think they see in the mirror, when they let their guard down? Resulting, they’re beyond desperate for acceptance elsewhere, outside their natural environment, even though Isabel dos Santos has been trying to manipulate and change Luanda into something that she can relate to…
Plus, they can’t spend their billions in Angola, right? What would they spend it on? They already own it all. So they travel. A lot. And the husband, scarf-boy Sindika Dokolo is clawing at legitimacy by trying to sell himself as some sort of real art aficionado, schmoozing with the Portuguese, who, he realizes, are more European than he is (or can be). The younger dos Santos’ are trying so, so hard to be acknowledged as anything other than what they actually are…which are petty thieves, bloodthirsty poseurs, and cruel bullies. The sheen of sophistication and class they’ve spritzed on themselves is so thin and tenuous that, as they fully realize, it can be blown away with just a whisper. And that whisper sounds like, “dictator,” “bloodthirsty,” “oppressive,” “the killing fields,” “blood diamonds,” and “censorship.” Any variation on that theme and people start moving away from them at fancy parties, they “unfriend,” un-follow, dis-“like” them socially and publicly. And the stink begins to follow them where it matters to them, which is outside of Angola.
If you read through Isabel dos Santos’ Instagram photos, every now and then, you’ll see someone who’s piped up and said something about how disgustingly flagrant her excesses are. I’ve seen FB comments that have disappeared from her much ballyhooed shopping mall in Luanda. More of that, and b-o-o-m. That word starts to creep into their glorified world, thanks to social media. That word: SHAME.
So here’s what I ask of you, regardless of where you’re at, and possibly more important if you’re outside of Angola: follow them around on the Internet and shame them. All it takes are a few well placed comments about what thugs they are….x 300,000 or so people, a few times a day, and especially now while they’re trying to shut down the country to outsiders because where would Isabel dos Santos GO if people knew what she was really up to back in Angola, when she wasn’t being some pseudo-socialite? Would she go to the Cannes Film Festival next year (she always goes) where someone might, oh, I don’t know, throw red paint on her to signify the blood that she’s caused to be shed in Angola? Might someone show up and “boo” her and her fake “friends,” who would then scurry away from her for good? That world of hers is fake, fragile, and self-absorbed. No one wants to stand next to the bloodthirsty dictator for a photo op, unless it’s Dennis Rodman, right?
Additionally, please show your support for journalists like those at Maka Angola, who have been, and continue to be, in the crosshairs of the dos Santos family. The more support, domestic and international, that those journalists have, the better. The more they’d be missed if they “disappear,” the safer they are, right. Their website is here and it’s in English and Portuguese: MakaAngola.org.
Do it for Angola. Please. Do it because, no matter where you are, and no matter what you look like, the people in Angola are your brothers and sisters.
Links to a few accounts and articles for comment:
Isabel dos Santos Instagram account:
Here is an article about Sindika Dokolo buying a Portuguese building to “promote” the arts. You’ll notice that I put a comment at the bottom. It’s THAT kind of thing – times a thousand, that will annoy and humiliate him;
Here is another article (same publication) about Dokolo and dos Santos “buying” a huge diamond. A diamond which they already own since they own the mining businesses associated with it. As you’ll see, I’ve again added my own “comment;”
Isabel dos Santos Twitter account is here;
Here is Sindika Dokolo’s ridiculous “art foundation” website with the most pretentious load of garbage saying by Picasso at the bottom of the page. Social media inks are also there…mwaa!