Mr. Rafael Marques de Morais (watch presentation)
Fellow, International Forum for Democratic Studies
With comments by
Dr. Peter Lewis (watch remarks)
Johns Hopkins University
During Angola’s civil wars, the government consistently pointed to corruption as the second major destructive force in the country, after the conflict itself. Ironically, in time of peace, corruption has become the nation’s defining governance issue. Top government officials are benefiting from blatant, often lawful mechanisms of enrichment, including the appropriation of state assets through unconcealed privatization; the assignment of business contracts to companies owned and often managed by state officials; and pressures on multinational corporations to form joint-ventures with military generals as a condition of foreign investment. While billions of dollars pour into the personal bank accounts of corrupt officials, ordinary Angolans live in extreme poverty, with 70 percent of the population surviving on less than two dollars a day. Notably, these forms of corruption are practiced within the country’s evolving legal framework, which continues to consolidate executive power, promote privatization of the state, and inhibit freedom of the press and civil society.
In his presentation, journalist and activist Mr. Rafael Marques de Morais examined the ways in which institutionalized corruption affects the rule of law, democratization, and the functionality of the Angolan state, while describing the role that the U.S. government, American businesses, and think tanks can play in holding the government accountable. His presentation was followed by comments by Dr. Peter Lewis.
Mr. Rafael Marques de Morais is an award-winning Angolan journalist and writer with a special interest in political economy and human rights. In 2009, he founded the watchdog website “Maka,” dedicated to exposing corruption in his country. Mr. Morais has authored numerous human rights reports on the diamond trade, including Harvesting Hunger in Angola’s Diamond Fields (2008), Operation Kissonde: The Diamonds of Misery and Humiliation (2006), and Lundas: The Stones of Death (2005), coauthored with Rui Campos. In recognition of his extraordinary efforts on behalf of human rights, Mr. Morais was awarded the Train Foundation’s Civil Courage Prize in 2006 and the National Association of Black Journalists’ Percy Qoboza Award for Outstanding Courage in 2000.
Dr. Peter M. Lewis is an associate professor and director of the African studies program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.