Have you heard of the Luanda 17? If you haven’t, you should. Do you know who the richest woman in Africa is? If you don’t, you should. And what do both of these have in common? The answer is Angola. The Luanda 17 are a group of young activists who have been sentenced to jail because they read the wrong book. Yes, you read that correctly, the wrong book and what was the wrong book? “Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.” Sounds dangerous doesn’t it? Subversive enough to warrant jail sentences ranging from two to eight years.
In fact, one defendant named Nito Alves had the audacity to express his opinion of the trial as being a farce that got him an additional six months. So, while the richest woman in Africa, the president’s daughter, jets around Europe on expensive shopping trips, 26% of the population is unemployed, inflation is 31.8%, and interest rates hover around 16%. Recently Moody’s warned that Angola’s failure to agree to a new Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund could be viewed as credit negative, though they have left the current rating alone for now.
Because Angola is the second largest oil producer in Africa and very reliant on the commodity market for revenue, debt to GDP rose from 25% in 2013 to 47% in 2015 and since November 2015 the government has taken on foreign debt amounting to $11.46 billion. This debt consists of a credit line from the China Development Bank as well as other Chinese financial institutions.
Recently the president José Eduardo dos Santos, named his daughter as head of the state oil company Sonangol, also known as the goose that keeps laying the golden eggs, but according to an article by Reuters titled “Twin crises expose Angola’s failure to kick its oil habit,” Isabel Dos Santos said, “It’s not because of politics. I was brought into this project because of my experience from the private business sector,” and further elaborated that her intention was to produce more oil at lower costs. Those ‘experiences’ must have been borne out of her engineering degree from Kings College, London. On the back of her degree, she in turn engineered the looting of Angolan wealth through some elaborate arm’s length transactions, as detailed in a 2013 Forbes article titled, “Daddy’s Girl: How An African ‘Princess’ Banked $3 Billion In A Country Living On $2 A Day.”
And now back to the Luanda 17 who were languishing in an Angolan jail for reading subversive material. Recently their attorneys managed to convince the Supreme Court to release them as their constitutional rights had been violated. The court agreed to release them pending a final decision on their case. As they walked to freedom for the first time in more than a year, one of them shouted, “reading is not a crime.” Stupidity or guts? I’d go for the guts and salute them.