Angola: Oil Wealth Eludes Nation’s Poor

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Angola: Oil Wealth Eludes Nation’s Poor

Government Needs to Take Effective Action to Combat Corruption, Mismanagement

WASHINGTON - The government of Angola has not done enough to combat pervasive
corruption and mismanagement, Human Rights Watch said in a report
released today. Even though the oil-rich country's gross domestic
product has increased by more than 400 percent in the last six years,
Angolans are not seeing their lives improve accordingly, Human Rights
Watch said.

The 31-page report, "Transparency and Accountability in Angola: An Update,"
documents how the government took only limited steps to improve
transparency after Human Rights Watch disclosed in a 2004 report that
billions of dollars in oil revenue illegally bypassed the central bank
and disappeared without explanation. The report details newly disclosed
evidence of corruption and mismanagement and includes recommendations
for reversing the pattern.

"The government needs to take strong action to combat the corruption
and secrecy that undermine Angolans' rights," said Arvind Ganesan,
director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights
Watch. "Here is a nation with a wealth of resources while its people
live in poverty."

Human Rights Watch said that a recent agreement with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), enacted in the wake of the global
financial crisis and drop in the price of oil, offers some hope for
improvement if its provisions are carried out.

The government has improved the publication of oil revenue figures,
the Human Rights Watch report says, but human indicators in Angola
remain abysmal and have not been commensurate with the rapid growth in
Angola's national wealth. Angola is the largest producer of oil in
sub-Saharan Africa, yet millions of Angolans have limited access to
basic social services. Angola ranked 143rd out of 182 countries in the
United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index.

Angola's ranking in Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index is growing worse, from 158th out of 180 countries in 2008 down to 162nd in 2009.

The report also details new evidence of corruption and
mismanagement, including that of Dr. Aguinaldo Jaime, who served as the
governor of the Angolan Central Bank from 1999 to 2002. As documented
by a February 2010 US Senate report, Jaime initiated a series of
suspicious $50 million transactions with US banks. For each attempt,
the banks, concerned about the likelihood of fraud, ultimately rejected
the transfer or returned the money shortly after receiving it. During
Jaime's three-year tenure as central bank governor, the government
could not account for approximately $2.4 billion.

Recent statements by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos seem to
indicate a willingness to combat government corruption. He has called
for a "zero tolerance" policy against corruption. And as the US Senate
conducted its recent investigation into corruption in Angola and
elsewhere, he announced a new Law on Administrative Probity, to reduce
corruption by government officials.

However, given that the president and ruling party have been in
power for more than three decades, including the entire period in which
oil-fueled corruption has been rampant, skeptics will wait to see
whether meaningful action will accompany these statements, Human Rights
Watch said. Further, a new constitution was recently enacted that will
enable dos Santos, in power now for 30 years, to remain in power for 13
more years.

"Dr. Jaime's activities underscore the need for accountability,"
Ganesan said. "If the Angolan government is serious about transparency
and reform, it should rigorously investigate government officials,
publish audits of its expenditures, and act on President dos Santos'
pledge of ‘zero tolerance' for corruption."

While the recently announced reforms have not gone far enough, a new
Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF offers both the framework and
international impetus to make substantive improvements and combat
corruption in Angola.

This may be an opportunity for the Chinese government to address
problems with transparency and accountability, Human Rights Watch said.
The Chinese government and Chinese companies are some of the largest
investors, trading partners, and consumers of Angola's oil. The Chinese
government and Chinese companies have invested billions in
oil-for-infrastructure deals while remaining relatively silent on
governance in Angola and elsewhere.

The China Investment Fund, a prominent private Chinese company that
has extensive ties to Sonangol, the Angolan national oil company, is of
particular concern. It has been controversial in Angola and other
countries, such as Guinea.

Human Rights Watch said that IMF board members, such as the United
States and China, should ensure that Angola complies with provisions of
the Stand-By Arrangement, specifically by making public the audits of
the state oil company Sonangol and providing regular updates detailing
Angola's expenditures.

In addition to the role of the United States as an IMF board member,
the Obama Administration has been outspoken about corruption, but some
of its policy proscriptions are unlikely to have a significant impact.
Instead, Human Rights Watch urged the administration to fully implement
the recommendations from the US Senate to combat the use of US
financial institutions by foreign kleptocrats to spend their money in
the United States.

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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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