Angola’s young voters prepare to call for change in ‘existential’ election | Angola

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Millions of Angolans will vote this week in a landmark election described as an “existential moment” for Central African’s main oil-rich state, and a test for democracy across part of the continent.

Wednesday’s poll pits veteran politicians against a generation of young voters who are just beginning to understand they can make radical change and escape the shadows of the cold war.

Observers say dissatisfaction with the rule of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has been in power since Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, has reached a point where the party will only be in power for another five years. will be through manipulation and repression.

“It’s an existential election and it’s going to be a very exciting race. If there were free and fair elections, the opposition would undoubtedly win, but the government won’t allow it,” said Paula Cristina Roque, an independent analyst and author.

Other parties and leaders who have been in power for decades since winning the liberation struggle on the continent are likely to see the growing difficulties of their counterparts in Angola as a warning.

Tiago Costa, one of Angola’s new comedians, said young voters should stand up and make the country a better place. Photo: GOZ’AQUI

As elsewhere in Africa, an important factor in Angola is the youth of the population. More than 60% are under the age of 24. Tiago Costa, one of the most successful of a new wave of comedians and other creative artists in Angola, said the millions of young people who voted for the first time had values ​​and views that differ dramatically from those of their politicians.

“We just live the same over and over again. Young people in Angola ask: ‘What is going on here?’ These children are lost in these speeches and stories that they just don’t understand or deserve,” said Costa, 37.

“Young people here need to learn from the mistakes of their elders [and] stand up to make Angola a country for Angolans, not for parties that always divide us and never do their job.”

President João Lourenço, a veteran MPLA official and former defense minister, won power in 2017 as the hand-picked successor to José Eduardo dos Santos, whose authoritarian rule lasted 38 years.

Although Lourenço, 68, has tried to stimulate economic growth and pay off huge debts, he has failed to improve the lives of most of its 35 million inhabitants. Critics say a high-profile anti-corruption campaign has only targeted potentially powerful enemies — such as Isabel dos Santos, the enormously wealthy daughter of the former president — while Amnesty International has described “an unprecedented crackdown on human rights, including unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests, in the run-up to the August 24 elections”.

Analysts said that when given the choice between saving the MPLA or saving the nation, Lourenço put the party first. “They had no intention of reforming themselves without power,” Roque said. “For a long time Angolans said, ‘We are poor, we are having a hard time, but we are at peace and that is enough.’ But now they are angry and disappointed and have nothing to lose.”

A boom that followed the end of the brutal 27-year civil war in 2002 largely benefited the elite. Life expectancy in Angola remains one of the lowest in the world, services are patchy and millions live in misery despite the country’s huge income from oil exports.

“Most people I speak to say that Lourenço has done nothing for them in these five years,” said Laura Macedo, an activist who campaigns for better conditions for the people of Luanda’s sprawling poor areas. “Most are planning to vote for the opposition”.

Lourenço’s main rival is Adalberto Costa Júnior of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita). Though only eight years younger than the incumbent, Costa Júnior has sought to position himself as a representative of the fledgling civil society and of all those who lost it under the years of MPLA rule.

Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former president José Eduardo dos Santos
Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of former President José Eduardo dos Santos, built up a huge fortune but was the target of a high-profile anti-corruption campaign. Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Unita was once the proxy of the west, funded and armed by the US and its allies, but eventually lost the civil war to the MPLA, which was backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Under Costa Júnior, the party has shifted to the center, but is still seen as pro-Western and pro-business, in contrast to the MPLA’s socialist ideological background and ongoing ties to Russia.

Angola, with its huge oil reserves, is now once again an important zone of great competition for power. Beijing has lost ground in recent years after José Eduardo dos Santos built up huge debts to China to pay for often shoddy or poorly designed infrastructure projects. Both Russia and the US have made efforts to gain influence in Luanda as well.

The conflict in Ukraine has intensified rivalry across the continent. Angola was one of 17 African countries that refused to support a UN General Assembly motion condemning the Russian invasion, leading some to describe a “new cold war” on the continent.

Both Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have toured Africa in recent months in an effort to strengthen relations with the continent. Neither of them stopped in Luanda, although both paid attention to Central Africa.

Unita officials say they are willing to wait another five years before taking power, but the MPLA’s difficulties underscore the challenges faced by many other parties or leaders who came to power in the wake of the conflict on the United States. continent.

In Uganda, 77-year-old Yoweri Museveni has ruled since 1986 and faces a powerful opposition movement led by former musician Bobi Wine, who has gained support from the youth and urban dwellers. A recent poll put Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa three points ahead of the Zanu-PF party, which came to power in 1980.

The ANC in South Africa was put in government by Nelson Mandela after the fall of the racist apartheid regime in 1994, but has also suffered a severe loss of support. Recent surveys suggested the party could fall to 38% in elections in 2024, potentially ending its rule or forcing a new era of coalition politics in Africa’s most industrialized country.

Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham who specializes in African politics, said the existing problems combined with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the continent and recent global increases in food and fuel prices are wave of discontent that threatened to destabilize governments everywhere – authoritarian and democratic.

“You can manipulate elections and keep power, but it doesn’t take away the anger. The risk is that the frustration will come out in other ways, with riots, political violence and unrest,” Cheeseman said.

This could be a risk that the West – eager for new energy supplies – is willing to take.

“Angola has oil. The west needs energy security. So even if the MPLA stays in power through fraudulent elections, the West will continue to put stability over democracy,” Roque said.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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