2006 Civil Courage Prize

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2006 Civil Courage Prize

Post by admin » Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:14 pm

For Immediate Release, October 4, 2006
Contact: Barbara Becker, EqualShot, 212-375-0661

Angolan Human Rights Activist Selected as Winner of 2006 Civil Courage Prize

Campaigning for an end to corruption and abuse by government and private industry

New York, NY – Rafael Marques, a leading voice for reform of repressive and corrupt policies of both the government and the diamond and oil industries in Angola, will receive the 2006 Civil Courage Prize on October 18.

The Prize of $50,000 honors steadfast resistance to injustice at great personal risk. It has been awarded annually since 2000 by the Northcote Parkinson Fund.

Marques, 35, has spent his career promoting respect for human rights, peace, the democratization of Angola, and freedom of the press.

Since the end of the country's 27-year civil war 4 years ago, he has exposed the practices of Angola's extractive industries, namely diamonds and oil, as well as unchecked plundering of the country's resources.

His newly released exposé, Diamonds of Humiliation and Misery, reports on the tragic impact that diamond extraction has on the lives of local populations and the abuses committed by the industry's private security companies. He reveals the ownership of these companies by the top brass of the Angolan military and the police, including the general-commander of the National Police, Commissar José Alfredo "Ekuikui."

The oil and diamond sectors represent nearly 60% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) of $15.5 billion.

In 1999, Marques was imprisoned for 40 days without charges, ten of them incommunicado, for writing in a newspaper article that President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was responsible "for the destruction of the country" and "accountable for the promotion of incompetence, embezzlement and corruption." His release took place in the wake of wide protests from humanitarian groups worldwide. A subsequent case, presented by the Open Society Justice Initiative and INTERIGHTS to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, resulted in a ruling that Angola had violated the freedom of expression of a journalist, and a call for broad liberalization of the Angolan regime.

Marques, who spends part of his time in Angola researching on human rights issues, has recently been appointed vice-president for Africa for the International Communications Forum, while undertaking anthropological studies at the University of London.

The 2006 Civil Courage Prize Award Ceremony will be held at the Harold Pratt House, 58 E. 68th St. in New York City, on October 18 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. To attend the event as a member of the media, please contact Barbara Becker at 212-375-0661.

To read Diamonds of Humiliation and Misery: http://www.cuango.net.

© Civil Courage Prize 2006

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Rafael Marques de Morais

Post by admin » Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:19 pm

2006 Civil Courage Prize Honoree

Rafael Marques de Morais
Angolan journalist who exposed the slaughter of his countrymen, the plundering of the country's wealth, and the corruption of its regime.

The 2006 Award Ceremony will be held at The Harold Pratt House in New York City on October 18th, 2006.

Media contact: Barbara Becker
Phone: 212-375-0661

Year 2006 Award Recipient

Rafael Marques de Morais is a tenacious leader in the struggle for reform of Angola's repressive and corrupt government, whose President, Eduardo dos Santos, was last elected in 1992. The 35-year old Marques is a journalist, public official, and representative of humanitarian organizations whose career has been marked by conflicts with the government of Angola, where, Marques says, "corruption can be defined ... as the main institution of the state." Himself a victim of the regime, Marques was imprisoned in 1999 for 40 days without charges, ten of them incommunicado, after he said in a newspaper article that the President was responsible "for the destruction of the country" and "accountable for the promotion of incompetence, embezzlement and corruption."

He was tried and convicted of the charge of abuse of the press resulting in "injury" to the President. On appeal, his sentence was suspended and he was ordered to pay damages to the President. His imprisonment became a landmark case in the quest for freedom of expression in Angola. The publicity surrounding the case generated an unprecedented level of attention from humanitarian groups worldwide to press freedom in Angola. His case was presented by the Open Society Justice Initiative and INTERIGHTS to the UN Human Rights Committee, and resulted in a ruling that Angola had violated the freedom of expression of a journalist and a call for broad liberalization of the Angolan regime.

After his release from detention, Marques turned his attention to efforts to end the civil war in Angola. He organized a coalition of 250 religious and civic leaders who called for a peaceful settlement.

A successor group, launched in 2001, stimulated the first public, independent discussion of the war and took its call for a ceasefire to Lisbon and the European Parliament.

The situation in Angola has attracted wide international attention, partly as a result of Marques' staunch efforts to call attention to abuses there. John Reed of the Financial Times wrote last year that "with oil companies jostling for concessions, there are concerns that a country regarded as one of the most corrupt is under little pressure to improve governance."

Decimated by the brutal civil war that raged for 30 years before and after independence was gained from Portugal, Angola lost half a million people in that conflict which was supported by the Soviet Union and Western powers and their surrogates. Over four million Angolans were displaced. All but a small part of the population still lives in dire poverty, while Angolan elites have benefited from rising oil and diamond revenues. Angolans reportedly remain deeply skeptical of possibilities for change under the dictatorial regime.

Marques has noted, "This government has always been supported. The only way it has been able to maintain itself is through international forces," an indirect reference to oil and diamond mining interests, including those in the US.

His own greatest impact on the situation came from his work between 1999 and 2002, in the view of his sponsors for the Civil Courage Prize. During those years, with the aid of the Open Society Institute, he wrote extensively about the hardships endured by the populations of oil-rich Cabinda Province and of the Lunda Provinces, a main site of the diamond trade. Despite government revenues in the Lunda region that now exceed $1 billion annually, there has been practically no public investment there over the past four decades. His unvarnished criticisms of the Angolan army's brutality and the malfeasance of the government and foreign oil interests put him at extreme personal risk. However, in 2002 his efforts aided an endeavor in 2003 to discuss elections and to convene a conference on Cabinda Province and reform there.

Marques, who was born in 1971, has pursued a career that has included journalism and acting, in addition to his activities in the sphere of human rights. At the time of the first-ever democratic elections, following the 1991 peace accord signed by the MPLA government and UNITA rebels, he began to work at the Jornal de Angola, the country's only newspaper. In 1992, he covered the meetings between President dos Santos and the UNITA leaders to prevent a return to war. His subsequent involvement in labor disputes at the Jornal in 1995 forced him to leave Angola for a year, whereupon he returned to freelance for Reuters and others, as well as write regularly for weekly independent papers. More recently, he has worked as a representative in Angola for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, where his main aim was to aid in teacher training programs.

At present, Marques is studying at the University of London. His family remains in Angola. His publication of criticisms continues via the worldwide web and other media.

He has participated in a number of meetings on international development. Most recently:

"Transitions: A Conversation with National Leaders," New York, March 28-29 2005, held by the New York University and the International Peace Academy.
"Beyond 'Conflict Diamonds:' a New Report on Human Rights and Angolan Diamonds" at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington DC, March 24 2005.
"Angola's Oil Curse" at the Post-Nobel Conference on "Oil Revenues – From Curse to Blessing for Developing Countries?" AlterNet.org, Marques, Rafael, December 17, 2004.

He has researched, coordinated and edited the following four human rights reports on Angola, which also address the impact of oil and diamonds in the increase of human rights abuses in regions where such wealth abounds:

2006 – The Diamonds of Humiliation and Misery. The report can be found in its entirety at www.cuango.net
2005 – Angola's deadly diamonds: Lundas, the stones of death. The report can be found in its entirety on the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars website [PDF 448kb; documents in PDF format require Adobe's Acrobat Reader].
2004 – Cabinda – A year of pain
2003 – Terror in Cabinda

In 2000, the National Association of Black Journalists of the United States presented Marques with the Percy Qoboza Award for Outstanding Courage, while the European Parliament bestowed upon him the Freedom Passport.

Rafael Marques de Morais

© Civil Courage Prize 2006

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Multinationals reap billions from Angolan oil wealth

Post by admin » Mon Oct 23, 2006 8:56 pm

Multinationals reap billions from Angolan oil wealth

Oct. 23 (GIN) - Angola's vast oil supply is making billions for multinational oil companies thanks to generous contracts signed with the former socialist government of Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor in Angola, Africa's second biggest oil exporter, is widening. More than two-thirds of the country's 16 million people live on US$2 or less a day, and 4 million of those survive on US$0.75 or less a day.

Those were among the many tragic images of modern Angola asserted by independent journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. Marques, in New York this month to receive the Northcote Parkinson Fund prize in Civil Courage, was speaking at the African Roundtable of Global Information Network, co-hosted by Milton Allimadi, publisher of Black Star News.

Marques noted that not only in New York are apartments renting and selling for astronomical prices. Million dollar homes are also available just outside of Luanda, the country's capital. The country's wealth is "concentrated in the hands of a small elite, who often use government positions for massive personal enrichment," he explained.

According to Angolense, a newspaper based in the capital, Luanda, ten Angolans have fortunes exceeding US$100 million, while another 49 have more than US$50 million. President José Eduardo Dos Santos was rated as the richest of the rich, followed by a parliamentary deputy, two officials in the president's office, an ambassador, a former army chief of staff, and the minister of public works. The seven richest Angolans were all in the ruling MPLA government.

Marques also noted that non-governmental organizations from western countries fail, in many cases, to listen to the people they are assigned to serve and for that reason, their projects use a lot of money wastefully.

The African Roundtable is intended to bring unique and thoughtful voices and perspectives from the continent that rarely find a platform in the U.S. The online edition of Black Star News can be seen at http://www.blackstarnews.com

The Civil Courage Prize honors steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk — rather than military valor. More information about Marques and the prize can be found at the website of Northcote Parkinson: www.civilcourageprize.org

Lisa Vives
Executive Director
Global Information Network
146 West 29th Street Suite 7E
New York, NY 10001
212-244-3123 (voice)
212-244-3522 (fax)

GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

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