Luanda Leaks: In a year, a lot has changed for Isabel, very little has changed for Angola
A year after the revelations of the scandal that became known as Luanda Leaks, much changed for Isabel dos Santos, who saw her empire collapse, but little changed for Angola, in the opinion of researcher Ricardo Soares de Oliveira.
“Something has changed, without a doubt, for Isabel dos Santos, but for Angola it has changed very little”, said the academic and author of the work “Angola: Magnificent and Miserable”, commenting on the consequences of the journalistic investigation that exposed the schemes that allowed the entrepreneur and daughter of former Angolan president to appropriate millions of dollars in Angolan treasury.
For Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, the impact of “Luanda Leaks” goes further than the revelations regarding the main target, showing “the ‘modus operandi’ of the Angolan economy over the last 20 years and the involvement not only of people linked to the former president, but also heads of banks, accountants, lawyers and other international service providers who “show the systemic dimension of the plunder of Angola”.
“Luanda Leaks” could “push forward a structural reform of the Angolan economy”, contributing to punish people who played an important role in the looting and to the reconstruction of the institutions of the Angolan economy, to prevent the looting from being repeated in the future, but “ that is not being done ”, he argued.
“For now, we have a kind of soap opera in which the ‘bad princess’ finally receives the punishment she deserved and the systemic dimension has been ignored. There are those who say that the procession is still in the churchyard and that the president intends, in the long term, to proceed with this structural cleaning, we will see ”, said the professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.
For Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, “Luanda Leaks” was a phenomenon with an impact mainly outside Angola, serving essentially to weaken and undermine the respectability of Isabel dos Santos at the international level, especially in Portugal, a country where the consequences were more severe.
“In the case of Portugal, we have a great dependence and deference to the Angolan context. Until 2017, Isabel dos Santos was surrounded by sycophants in Lisbon – almost all of the political and business class. On the day that João Lourenço drops the Santos family, support from Lisbon started to disappear and Isabel started to be demonized ”, justified the specialist, stressing that Portugal has“ been marching to the sound of Angolan music, formerly Eduardo and now Lourenco ” .
Ricardo Soares de Oliveira notes that the way the main protagonists are seen has also changed.
The Angolan president, João Lourenço, initially enjoyed great popularity when he decided to directly attack the ex-president and some people closest to him, between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, when Angolan society felt “an immense resentment” towards the Santos family. But public opinion has changed.
“Today, people do not ask questions about governance ten years ago, but about the current situation, and there is a perception that President João Lourenço has not resolved any of the major structural issues, which have to do with the economy and the unemployment ”, he pointed out.
And while the hostility towards Isabel dos Santos dissipated, there is increased fear that their companies will have gained strength.
“In December 2019, when the State took over the companies of Isabel dos Santos – Angola’s largest employer outside the public sector – the reaction I got from many Angolans was: these companies are going to fly,” said the researcher.
And although not all of them made such sinister predictions (some just said that the State is incompetent, recalls Ricardo Soares de Oliveira), the general perception when the decision to arrest assets, accounts and shareholdings of the Angolan businesswoman was known was of hesitation and fear.
“There was a whole upper middle class, between Luanda and Talatona, which works for those companies, an urban class in the private sector that was afraid that State intervention would damage companies,” he stressed.
This article is available in: Português