Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in many ways a throwback to the African “Big Men” of a previous generation, looks like he is trying to derail sub-Saharan democracy where he can. He is clearly worried about what the North African “democratic wave” means for his own regime. Human Rights Watch reports that dos Santos has arrested Angolan advocates and journalists ahead of a planned pro-democracy rally in Luanda that was then canceled. The human rights organization places those arrests in the context of broader regime-sponsored intimidation of journalists, democracy advocates, and opposition political leaders.
Dos Santos is also backing strong man Laurent Gbagbo in his struggle with Alassane Ouattara, whom the international community regards as the legal president of Cote d’Ivoire. But dos Santos may also be providing more than diplomatic support for Gbagbo. The Economist reports that dos Santos has dispatched Angolan soldiers to provide security for the presidential palace where Gbagbo is living. The Economist also notes rumors that Angola has lent money to the Cote d’Ivoire president so that he can circumvent internationally-imposed economic sanctions and the closing of international banks in Abidjan. If the latter is true, Angolan financial support could be crucial for Gbagbo, enabling him to continue to pay the Ivorian army—essential if he is to retain its loyalty and hang on to power.
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