Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A blind eye

Jimmy Mubenga died as three security guards restrained him with what is believed to be excessive force while being deported to Angola. Last month, a senior journalist at a radio station, accused by the ruling party of trying to incite rebellion, was shot dead in Luanda. In 2004, Mfulumpinga Nlandu Victor, an outspoken politician, was also shot dead in the capital. In 2007, the leader of the main opposition party, Isaías Samakuva, survived an assassination attempt unharmed. There are many lesser known cases of systematic abuse, detentions, torture, deaths, but none of these appear on the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) country profile. Unlike nearby Zimbabwe, Angola does not even feature in the UK's list of countries whose human rights record are of concern.

British business interests, particularly oil interests, are undoubtedly the underlying reason. Angola produces about 1.9m barrels of oil a day. One of the UK's largest companies, BP, has substantial interests there and describes Angola as one of its "six new profit centres". BP's involvement in the country began four decades ago: to date it has invested $8bn. Other British businesses operating in Angola include De La Rue, Lonrho plc, Crown Agents, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Standard Chartered and KPMG. According to Oxfam, British arms brokers were actively selling arms to Angola during the war.

The irony is that many British people take it for granted that our respect for human rights and justice is second to none. Often, when talking about dictatorships in other parts of the world, we assume we have a moral authority that other nations can only envy. The death of Mubenga while in the care of the British justice system suggests otherwise.

No comments: