Diamonds, soldiers, torture and corruption

In 2002, Angola’s MPLA government defeated Unita, which was its adversary in a 27-year war. A year later, the war in Iraq and the energy demands of a rapidly industrialising China combined to send the oil price soaring. It was against this background that Rafael Marques, already a well-established figure in Angolan journalism, founded the investigative website Maka Angola, which for more than a decade has documented how former President José Eduardo dos Santos and those around him have pocketed the profits of the post-war boom. 

One focus of Marques’s work has been on the diamond mining industry in north-eastern Angola. The mine owners investigated by Marques were all high officers in the Angolan Armed Forces, who had been handed diamond concessions as a reward for their loyalty to the government during the war. The concession areas were carved out of what had been communal land where people had made a living from farming or panning through river gravel in search of alluvial diamonds. The generals’ positions allowed them to use soldiers and police as private security guards. Travelling to the diamond fields at great personal risk, Marques recorded 500 cases of torture and over 100 killings by security guards. Victims included not only the small-time diamond diggers, but people trying to access their fields or draw water from a river. 

Marques made known his research findings in a book, Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola), published in Portugal in September 2011. In November 2012, nine generals attempted to sue Marques in a Lisbon court for libel and defamation. When the Portuguese Attorney General dismissed the case, the generals turned to the Angolan courts to sue Marques for defamation and libel. After a tortuous judicial process, in 2015 Marques received a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. 

The trial and conviction did not halt Marques’s efforts to expose corruption at the highest levels of the Angolan state. In 2013 an investigation co-authored with Kerry Dolan of Forbes magazine revealed to readers beyond Angola that Isabel dos Santos, the then-president’s daughter, had amassed a fortune of US$3 billion. The title of ‘Africa’s richest woman’ has stuck since then. And it was Maka Angola that brought Isabel’s brother, José Filomeno (‘Zénu’) dos Santos into the spotlight. In 2012 Zénu was put in charge of the Angola Sovereign Fund, a US$5-billion nest egg supposedly created to help Angola survive future oil price shocks. Investigations by Marques showed how money from the fund was flowing freely into business ventures controlled by Zénu and his Swiss-Angolan friend Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais. A year later the Panama Papers leak provided further evidence for this.

At the same time as exposing the perpetrators of corruption, Marques has continued to document its consequences. His account of conditions at Luanda’s main hospital, during a yellow fever epidemic that could have been prevented through investment in sanitation and public health, bears witness to the lives and deaths of those for whom Angola’s economic transformation means little. 


Marques de Morais, Rafael. 2011. Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola. Lisbon: Tinta da China. Available at, accessed on 29 May 2018.

Marques de Morais, Rafael & Dolan, Kerry A. 2013. ‘Daddy’s girl: How an African “Princess” banked $3 Billion in a Country living on $2 a day’, Forbes, 2 September. Available at:, accessed on 29 May 2018.

Angola’s Sovereign Fund Pays $100 Million to a Shell Company

Rafael Marques de Morais, Maka Angola, 12 April 2015

On 22 January 2015, Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (FSDEA) transferred the sum of K9,948,750,000 kwanzas (US$10 million) 

to the company Kijinga SA.This company is nothing more than a shell company set up as a front for shady transactions by Banco Kwanza Invest (BKI), a bank created by the 36-year-old José Filomeno dos Santos ‘Zenú’, the current chair of the FSDEA and the son of the President of the Republic.

Kijinga SA shares an office with BKI at 150 Avenida Comandante Jika, next to the Maternity Hospital in Luanda.This address has only one business door, which opens into a small waiting room where there is a reception area and two chairs for visitors.One of these chairs is usually occupied by a security guard, in addition to the guard on duty outside the door.The windows are darkened glass, which does not allow a glimpse inside.From the waiting room all one can see is a door leading to the bank and Kijinga SA.

According to documents in the possession of Maka Angola, FSDEA transferred the funds already mentioned from its account at the state-owned Banco de Poupança e Crédito, to account AO06005700000014010400124, which is in the name of Kijinga SA at BKI.The transfer was carried out with the knowledge of the Central Bank of Angola.The transfer is identified only as the payment of a bill dated 13 January 2015.

A document from the General Tax Administration of the finance ministry, in the possession of Maka Angola and dated 5 February 2015, shows that Kijinga SA does not have a single employee.

How can a company without a single employee provide services to the Sovereign Wealth Fund valuing nearly US$100 million? That is the question.

Kijinga SA was legally constituted on 4 December 2012.Its formal shareholders are Pascoalina Natacha Daniel Sambo, Sendji Alexandre Vieira Dias, Mário Augusto dos Santos Mangueira, Cira Cláudia Ferreira Custódio Medrôa and Djanir de Nazaré Ferreira da Conceição (now Junqueira).

Maka Angola has conducted a brief investigation into these shareholders.Pascoalina Sambo’s CV states that she has served as a sub-director of the BKI legal department since July 2012.Cira Cláudia Ferreira Custódio Medrôa has been on the staff of BKI since October 2012.According to her CV, she started working at the bank as executive secretary and supervisor of the receptionists, and is currently the compliance officer.

Djanir de Nazaré Ferreira da Conceição (now Junqueira) was also working at BKI at the time when the company was set up.

Mário Augusto dos Santos Mangueira has since 2012 been a manager of the Fundo Activo de Capital de Risco (FACRA) a venture capital fund created by President José Eduardo dos Santos, through presidential decree 108/12, using public money, to support micro, small and medium-sized businesses. FACRA’s funds are exclusively managed by BKI.

The chief nominal shareholder of BKI, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, who holds 85% of the bank’s shares, is one of three members of FACRA’s highest body, the Supervisory Council.FACRA’s investment committee is chaired by Marcel Kruse, BKI’s CEO … 

The only individual on the list who does not appear to have any institutional links with BKI or its shareholders or managers is Sendji Alexandre Vieira Dias, who works for the state diamond company, Endiama.

When contacted by Maka Angola, Mário Augusto dos Santos Mangueira denied having any relationship with BKI or with Kijinga SA.‘It is very strange that you are phoning me to ask this question,’ he stated.He promised to organise a meeting to discuss the matter when his schedule permitted; however, a month later he has not found the time to do so … 

*The full report can be found at 

The Morgue 

Rafael Marques de Morais, Maka Angola, 24 March 2016 

It’s barely 2am at Luanda’s Josina Machel Hospital, the largest in Angola, but already vehicles are queuing in a long line at the entrance.

Most carry coffins.Others bear the unboxed bodies.Over the next five hours they will remove the mortal remains of 235 luckless Angolans for burial.It will be at a rate of a coffin for each 1.2 minutes.This macabre harvest is routine.

The Angolan government can massage the statistics but it only takes one observer to stand and count, as, one by one, grim-faced morticians and weeping relatives carry away the dead.

Angola is in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic that the authorities would prefer to downplay.Malaria too is reaping a rich harvest.This year, these two treatable conditions are the main causes of death in Luanda, an overcrowded metropolis of more than six million souls.

The tiny few who make it to the Josina Machel Hospital give a glimpse of the true situation: ‘Not worth it, sir.Too many people dying.I’ve never seen the like,’ says one of the people charged with guarding the removal of the bodies at the morgue.Shaking his head, he takes up position to wait for the next, and the next.

In a small two-door coupe sit three women wearing the false cheer of colourful cotton wraps, each embracing a tiny shrouded body.Waiting to depart.

The clock ticks on: 3.30am and now traffic to and from the morgue entrance is chaotic as the comings and goings multiply in the pre-dawn hours.

Not a minute’s rest in the morgue reception area.There should be an orderly line, in order of arrival, but there are space problems given the demand for the release of bodies.On the side, someone has established a ‘parallel business’: a space up front for a handful of kwanzas.

There is no computer, no typewriter.Release forms are scrawled hurriedly by hand.

I make my way to the refrigerated units in the body holding area.It has to be seen to be believed.I can’t ask for names, causes of death.I can only watch, listen, be present, and bear witness to the terrible truth.

In the open space at the back of the morgue are the family members of the recently departed.Each carries their own 20-litre yellow jerry can of water, a plastic tub and soap: the necessities for washing the dead.

I count more than 20 bodies laid out in the open air as they are washed, dressed and tidied up by their loved ones in preparation for that final goodbye.

The bathwater has nowhere to drain away.It pools on the floor, along with blood, discarded medical gloves, surgical masks, the clothes they were wearing when they died.There is a single drain.It’s blocked, putrid.

‘What a country this is.What a country this is,’ laments one of the relatives.

*The full report can be found at