On Thursday, President Joao Lourenco awarded the presidential medals to two human rights activist, Rafael Marques and anti-corruption crusader, Sousa Jamba, who were once considered “enemies of the state“ by his predecessor Dos Santos.
The award was in recognition for the roles that they played in keeping government accountable. The duo were part of a group of 70 other personalities who were awarded by the presidency for their service of the development of Angola.
“Human rights activist and anti-corruption activist Rafael Marques and writer Sousa Jamba today received the Angolan Presidential Medal for their outstanding work for the benefit of the nation,” wrote Zenaida Machado, a researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote on Twitter.
Rafael Marques, was routinely tried and jailed by the government of dos Santos for his activism. All that has slowly been changing since Lourenço came to power in 2017, Luanda has gradually been taking on a new leaf in the two areas – of human rights and anti-corruption.
Dos Santos era officials have been fired from their positions over issues especially of corruption and Lourenço hasn’t been shy to sack some of his predecessor children caught up in corruption.
According to President Lourenco, this recognition “should put an end to the clichés and stereotypes Angola suffers in relation to its human rights record.”
Angola’s human rights credentials remained very low for the close to four decades that dos Santos was in charge.
Similarly, Angola’s fight against corruption took a hit under dos Santos as he was severally accused of nepotism and clampdown on activists.