Rafael Marques de Morais: Allard Prize Finalist

Prominent Angola-based journalist and human rights activist, Rafael Marques De Morais has dedicated his career to exposing corruption in his home country. In 1999, De Morais was arrested and charged with abuse of the press for an article he published that criticized Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, who claimed “injury” over the piece. The article, published in the weekly magazine Angola, pointed to the president as destroying Angola and promoting “incompetence, embezzlement and corruption as political and social values".De Morais was held in prison for forty days without charges and was not permitted to contact his family or lawyer.

Ultimately, he was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. After much pressure and support from international organizations, including the Open Society Institute and the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Supreme Court changed De Morais’ sentence to a suspended sentence.

Most recently, Mr. Marques De Morais has been the subject of a defamation lawsuit resulting from his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola. The book describes the killing and terrorizing of villagers by private security companies and Angolan military officials in the diamond fields of the Lundas region.

Despite threats to his life, lawsuits and an unjust prison detainment, De Morais continues to write extensively on the trade of conflict diamonds, army brutality and corruption in the oil industry in Angola. In 2008, he founded Maka Angola – an anti-corruption watchdog, through which he has become the authoritative voice on corruption in his country.

What are your thoughts on being selected as a Finalist for the Allard Prize?

“It is a boost for my work, and an important break in my isolation and regular harassment. It also provides a ray of hope for Angolans who believe in the importance of exposing corruption as a criminal offense and the main scourge of society.”

What inspires you to do the work that you do?

“I have a dream too:  I would like to bear witness and contribute to the sustainable human development of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen. Nature has blessed us with a beautiful country and such cheerful people, but bad governance and corruption keep undermining the future of both.”