a) Find a cheetah in your country (person or organization) and show his/her/its work that helps the country move towards protection of human rights, free speech, systems of accountability, reducing poverty, etc.
As an aspiring journalist myself, it is eye-opening to read about journalists in other countries who literally risk their lives in order to report injustice in their country. In Angola, a prominent journalist named Rafael Marques is an investigative journalist and human rights activist who embodies the true epitome of freedom of the press. In the United States, this is talked about quite often, but our scandals are much less revealing than the horrendous acts that Marques uncovered in Angola. In 2011, Marques published a book called Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola where he talks about the rape and torture that was committed by soldiers and security guards in the diamond fields in Angola. Marques, who has been fined and arrested for his works in the past, was again charged with defamation of the army generals that he blames for the crimes that were committed. In May of 2015, Marques was sentenced to a 2 year suspension, which means that all of his work until 2017 will be under severe scrutiny. If he publishes anything controversial, the government can decide to invoke his sentence and have him jailed. Marques plans to continue reporting for his foundation Maka Angola, which has a website that publishes articles about corruption in Angola. The website also has a section entitled Makaleaks in which individuals can anonymously report of injustices in Angola. Marques is truly a cheetah because he stands his ground and does worthwhile work despite the threat of prison looming over his head.
“In Africa the good guys keep leaving so that the bad guys can rule as they wish. We have to make a strong stand.” – Rafael Marques
b) Ch. 3 of Radelet’s Emerging Africa talks extensively about democracy building as well as discusses how one defines democracy, what is elemental and how democracies are ranked and judged. How does your country rank?
When we think of a democracy, we usually think of a free election as the foundation for this type of government. However, according to Radelet there are numerous other components that must be present in order for a government to be defined as such. These requirements are as follows:
- Protection of basic civil liberties and human rights
- Establishment of public institutions that are held accountable by citizens and help limit the power of their leaders
- Recognition of rights of freedom of expression, assembly and press.
In Angola, as we have clearly seen by the punishment placed on Marques, freedom of expression in terms of the press, is not allowed.
According to the Freedom House Freedom in the World 2016 research, Angola ranks in the Not Free area with a score of 24/100. This includes political rights, civil liberties and a freedom rating all of which Angola received a 6/10. In terms of political rights, in 2010 direct presidential elections were abolished in Angola. Currently, José Eduardo dos Santos is in power and has been for the last 36 years, making him on the longest servings heads of state in Africa. The state also owns the only daily newspaper in Angola, so it acts as a voice for the political party that Santos is part of. Censorship is very common throughout Angola. After Marques was sentenced to a 2 year suspension, his book was also ordered to be taken out of publication, furthering this sense of an expressionless society.
The Polity IV Index shows that Angola has been ranked as a -2 from around 2003 to 2015. This index shows the level of democracy that a country has attained. A score of -2 puts Angola in the anocratic category, which means that it has parts of a democracy and an autocracy within its government. While this may sound better than an autocracy, it is prone to instability and ineffectiveness. Overall, Angola does not score very high when it comes to democratic leadership.
c) Education is a challenge, what do you see that works or does not work in your country?
Angola was ravaged by civil war from 1975 to 2002, which had a very negative effect on education for children during this time. Between 1996 and 1999, 1,500 school buildings were destroyed. The majority of Angolan children did not attend school until 2002, when peace finally allowed for rebuilding to begin. In 2005, under the regional Schools for Africa (SFA) initiative, 1,500 schools were repaired or rebuilt in Angola with the support of Germany’s UNICEF group.
Today, free elementary school is provided for Angolan children starting at age six until age 11, but there is a severe shortage of teachers and materials. There is also a large gap between male and female attendance as well as literacy rates. Female literacy for ages 15-24 peaks at 66% while males in the same age range are 80% literate. Children in rural areas often struggle with access to local schools, which accounts for the large percentage of children, mostly female who still do not attend school (about 26%).
Although Angola’s education system is far from perfect, it is important to take into account the toll that the civil war took on education. As we have seen in almost every reading in class so far, education is the key for individuals when it comes to breaking the cycle of poverty, so access to education, especially for young people is particularly important.