Angola is considered Norway’s most important trading partner in Africa, because of the Norwegian oil and offshore industry’s involvement in Angola’s own oil industy. The country is also known for corruption and a lack of human rights, though, and a group of Norwegian journalists planning to visit the country in time for its 40th anniversary of independence this week were not issued visas and had to cancel the trip.
Norway’s Institute for Journalism (IJ) had organized the trip for journalists from state broadcaster NRK and newspapers Aftenposten, VG and Dagens Næringsliv (DN) among others. Last Friday night, just two days before scheduled departure on Sunday, IJ had to inform the journalists that Angola’s embassy in Stockholm had not issued visas for the trip’s week-long course entitled Follow Norwegian business to Angola and South Africa. The trip thus had to be cancelled.
“Maybe it’s because the authorities in Luanda (Angola’s capital) didn’t want to receive journalists who have written critically about Angola earlier,” wrote IJ. Or perhaps, IJ suggested, it was because the company that specializes in visa formalities, Visumservice, delivered the journalists’ passports too late. The latter seemed doubtful, though. Visas are usually processed by Angola’s embassy within eight to 10 days and the journalists’ passports were delivered to the embassy on October 14.
The trip came as questions have been raised around Statoil’s involvement in Angola and as state-controlled Telenor is caught in a major corruption case of its own in Uzbekistan. Morten Høglund, a state secretary for Norway’s foreign ministry, was recently in Angola himself and reported that human rights in Angola are under pressure, and that there had been a “negative development” in freedom of expression. Angola is ruled by a president, José Eduardo Dos Santos, who has held power for 36 years and whose family has grown enormously wealthy. Aftenposten reported how the vast majority of Angolans, however, still live on less than USD 2 a day, despite the country’s oil revenues. Every sixth child born in Angola also reportedly dies before the age of five.