Catholic Bishops in Angola call for the consolidation of democracy.

Angola’s Catholic Bishops say the country could use this year’s elections to boost the country’s fledgling democracy. The Bishops also urge the government to urgently address issues of poverty.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.

The Bishops said all eligible voters must register and renew their cards in readiness for the August elections.

Need for enhanced human dignity

In a report released by the Catholic-owned Radio Ecclesia, Archbishop José Manuel Imbamba, President of the Bishops Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST), said the August general elections could be a watershed moment for the country to make a democratic leap forward.

“A strengthened democracy, by its nature, contributes to the affirmation of human dignity, the strengthening of justice, peace and well-being among citizens,” said the CEAST President.

Archbishop Imbamba, the Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Saurimo, spoke from the Diocese of Benguela, where the Bishops are meeting in a CEAST plenary assembly.

The city of Benguela, situated in the western part of Angola, is one of the most populous towns.

President Lourenço seeking a second mandate

The ruling party, MPLA has been in power since 1975. President João Lourenço was first elected in 2017 after serving as Defence minister under president José Eduardo dos Santos. The ruling party recently confirmed President Lourenço’s bid for a second mandate.

Angola is yet to fully recover from a brutal civil war that started in 1975 and only ended in 2002. The war began after Angola became independent from Portugal in November 1975. The two former anti-colonial movements, MPLA and UNITA, engaged in a protracted power struggle that led to devastation. About 500 000 people died in the war. Many roads, bridges, and buildings were damaged.

Currently, the opposition holds about a third of the seats in the National Assembly. In 2017, the opposition complained of widespread irregularities in elections won by MPLA.

It remains to be seen how the National Electoral Commission (CNE) will demonstrate its independence. It is composed in proportion to party representation in parliament. Another concern is Angola’s decision to count votes from a central place and not at local polling stations as is the norm.

Call to address issues of poverty, urgently

Angola’s oil-driven economy has remained stagnant for six years despite being a major oil producer. The cost of living has been on the increase, and in their statement this week, the Bishops noted that “unemployment and the poverty situation in Angola are issues that need to be addressed urgently.”

Economists also say Angola has a huge international debt, most of it owed to China.