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Tired of being criticised for being one of the world’s most
secretive governments, Angola is finally throwing back some
Top government officials, including the economy minister,
the finance minister and the head of the central bank, held a
news conference late on Friday to discuss the government’s first
200 days in power — the second news conference of the kind this
“You thought we wouldn’t do this again,” said Carlos Feijo,
Angola’s powerful minister of state who is seen by many as the
president’s right-hand man. “Well, here we are.”
He then went on to speak non-stop for 40 minutes, describing
how the economy had improved in recent months, plans to pay
billions in debt to construction firms and the fight against
poverty and corruption before opening up the floor to questions.
Many journalists praised the government’s decision to hold
the news conference as a step in the right direction in a nation
where officials seem to be paid to keep quiet and where people
are afraid to openly criticise the president.
Greater transparency could also bolster Angola’s chances of
receiving more Western loans and placing debt with private
investors abroad, as it seeks cash shore up its finances after
the recent slump in oil prices.
Angola was ranked in the bottom 19 of 180 countries in a
Transparency International corruption study last year.
State-run daily Jornal de Angola hailed the news conference
a success in an editorial a few days later.
“The Angolan government has explained how public funds are
being managed so that Angolans continue to trust in those they
elected into government for four years,” said Jornal de Angola.
“It is important that all Angolans, whether or not they
voted for the ruling party, to be aware of the importance of
this extraordinary performance.”
The question is whether the Angolan government is serious
about increasing transparency or simply using the media’s thirst
for information to campaign ahead of the nation’s 2012
President Mwai Kibaki’s naming of a key ally, Uhuru Kenyatta, as his new finance minister to replace another supporter, Amos Kimunya, does not come as a surprise to some.
Kimunya, who stepped down last July after he was accused of corruption in the handling of the sale of a luxury hotel, has also returned to parliament — replacing Kenyatta as trade minister.
Kimunya was not reinstated even after he was cleared by an official enquiry into the controversial sale of the luxury Grand Regency Hotel in the capital.
The long wait for someone to fill the finance position suggested to some that Kibaki was not comfortable bringing his ally back, given his tainted name.
His appointment to the trade ministry could mean Kibaki did not want to lose him from the cabinet altogether, although some analysts say it was a move to save face.
Pundits also say Kibaki did not have much room to manoeuvre in picking Kenyatta. Many MPs who support the president are parliamentary neophytes without much experience in running a powerful ministry like the treasury.