Condemning corruption & partisanship, Angolan Church cries foul

The bishops call for "conversion, a genuine change in mentality and behavior" of the country's leadership and the opposition.

By Paulo Aido 

NEW YORK—In a strongly-worded pastoral letter, the bishops of Angola—citing an alarming growth in poverty and a sharp rise in the cost of living—have condemned the country’s elites for “a lack of ethical standards, mismanagement of the public purse and generalized corruption” in the country.

In their statement issued March 9, 2016—a copy of which was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need—the bishops insist that the global drop in oil prices cannot be regarded as the sole cause of the country’s economic malaise.

The prelates instead point to a “mentality of cronyism and nepotism and the growing discrimination which is the result of increasing partisanship within the public administration, in which genuine merit and competence are being sacrificed.”

Noting that large sections of the population are at risk of falling into severe poverty, the pastoral letter also mentions the “neglect of public and preventative health” as evidenced by the lack of sanitation, the neglect of “public and private hygiene, distribution and supply of drinking water, and the “accumulation of refuse,” especially in urban areas.

Warning of potentially grave political and social unrest, the bishops call for “conversion, a genuine change in mentality and behavior” of the country’s leadership and the opposition, insisting that the latter’s proposals must not be rejected as an attack on the country’s institutions and authorities—but be given a fair hearing as “well-founded and constructive criticisms” serving the common good.

Angolan children

The bishop also pointedly remark on what they call a “worrying partisanship regarding the means of social communication which, by right, should be at the service of all.” It is a reference to what the prelates consider to be muzzling of Church-run Rádio Ecclesia, the expansion of whose reach has been blocked by the government. Meanwhile, radio outlets friendly to the government are given free rein, the bishops charge.  

Archbishop José Manuel Imbamba of Saurimo, vice president of the country’s bishops’ conference, has told reporters that—although the Church is not “an opposition party”—it will not “remain silent in the face of grave violations of human rights.”

At issue is the ongoing trial of 17 human rights activists accused by the authorities of plotting a coup against the MPLA government, the party in power since 1975 when the country gained independence from Portugal. President José Eduardo dos Santos has been in office for 36 years.

General elections are planned for 2017, and given the country’s economic crisis, opposition to the government is growing apace, with the bishops worrying about the country’s political and social stability as the government cracks down on its critics.

Aid to the Church in Need has supported the Church in Angola over the past 10 years with a total of close to $4.5M million Euros, for a variety of different projects, roughly one-third of them involving the restoration of Church properties and establishments that were seized by the Marxist-oriented government and only returned to the Church after the civil war (1975-2002)—more often than not in a ruinous condition. Other funding has benefited the training of priest and catechists.

Angola's future; ACN photo

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