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Country analysis > Angola Last update: 2020-11-27  

Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) - Stanford Institute on International Studies

"The main institution in the country is corruption": Creating transparency in Angola

John McMillan

Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) - Stanford Institute on International Studies

Number 36, 7 February 2005

SARPN acknowledges the CDDRL website as the source of this document -
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Corruption was extreme in Angola in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Each year, about US$1 billion of Angola’s oil revenues, reportedly, were disappearing.

Fraud occurred at the highest levels. The missing billions, it was widely alleged, went in kickbacks from oil contracts. The US State Department said wealth was “concentrated in the hands of a small elite, who often used government positions for massive personal enrichment.” Ten Angolans had fortunes exceeding US$100 million, reported Angolense, a Luanda newspaper, while another 49 had more than US$50 million. Topping the rich list was President Josй Eduardo Dos Santos, Angolense said, followed by a parliamentary deputy, two officials in the president’s office, an ambassador, a former army chief of staff, and the minister of public works. The seven richest Angolans were all in the government.

“Right now, the main institution in the country is corruption,” said Rafael Marques, an Angolan journalist who was arrested for reporting the abuses. “The system is rotten to the core and until you change the entire system nothing will change.”1 What, if anything, could be done to fix this “rotten” system?

Angola provides a case study in building institutions from scratch. Both Angolans—civil-society groups and journalists—and outsiders—nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, foreign governments, and a few of the multinational oil companies—prodded the Angolan government to reform itself. A dysfunctional state has been driven by the combination of domestic and external pressure to take some initial steps—grudging and gradual but apparently genuine steps—toward accountability.

  1. The $1 billion estimate, based on unpublished calculations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is discussed in Global Witness, “Time for Transparency,” 2004,, and Human Rights Watch, “Some Transparency, No Accountability,” 2004, The rich list is from Angolense, “Wealth Has Changed Its Color: Our Millionaires,” 1/13/03, reproduced in Economist Intelligence Unit, Angola Country Report, 2/10/03. Quote from US Department of State, Angola: Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002, 3/31/03, Marques quote: National Post (Canada), 6/30/02.

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