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Human Rights Lawyers Take Angola’s Oil CEO To Court

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

A group of 12 human rights lawyers, who last year filed a suit against the new head of Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol, have now taken matters to the Constitutional court.

The suit accuses President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of violating probity laws and demonstrating nepotism by appointing his daughter Isabel to the high position. The Supreme Court, however, rejected it in late December.

The lawyers argued the Supreme Court too had acted out of order, by taking longer than what guidelines state to rule on their case. It took the court seven months to issue a ruling.

Other lawyers believe the group of 12 will have a hard time convincing the Constitutional court of any wrongdoing on the part of the President – one of the longest-serving leaders in Africa, in power since 1979. The problem: finding a proof that Dos Santos acted unconstitutionally by appointing his daughter CEO of Sonangol.

The appointment of Isabel dos Santos certainly put Sonangol firmly in the global spotlight. When she took the helm, she pledged to make the company transparent and to separate its core operations, spinning off the rest to improve focus.

According to local media reports, however, the company is in shambles, with the management unable – or perhaps unwilling – to supply the staff with basic things such as washroom supplies.

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The controversy of Isabel dos Santos’ appointment grew further when it emerged last October that Chevron, a long-time partner of Sonangol, is demanding US$300 million in a debt repayment, threatening to otherwise end the relationship. Soon after this, Sonangol announced it had agreed to a debt payment of US$200 million, without mentioning the name of the receiver, adding that a plan was in place for the remainder of the sum.

All this is happening while Angola overtakes Nigeria as Africa’s biggest crude oil producer, with a daily output of 1.7 million barrels as of end-2016. Sonangol’s new management has pledged to improve the profits resulting from this increased production by cutting costs to US$12 a barrel.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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