Angola president holds unprecedented talks with civic groups
Angolan President Joao Lourenco, elected last year as the country's first new leader in nearly four decades, met civic groups on Tuesday in unprecedented talks as part of his reforms.
The meeting was marred by presidential staff refusing entry of investigative journalist Rafael Marques who was critical of Lourenco's predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos during his 38-year rule.
Marques said later he been invited to a private meeting with Lourenco on Wednesday in what he called a sign of "good will".
Participants in the talks, including singer Luaty Beirao who served prison time on rebellion charges in 2015-2016, praised talks as progress in dialogue between the government and critics in Angola, dominated for decades by the dos Santos family.
"This meeting is a step forward in the construction of a national dialogue," said Jose Patrocinio from the local NGO Omunga.
They praised the "frankness and respect" shown by the president who has promised to overhaul the economy of the African oil producer, which is struggling with foreign currency shortages, unemployment and poverty despite its petroleum wealth.
The new president has quickly sought to distance himself from his predecessor and former mentor and promised to tackle widespread corruption that many Angolans blame on the long rule of the dos Santos family.
The former president's son is in prison as part of an investigation into misappropriation of state funds.
Tuesday's meeting fell short when journalist Marques was left out. A long-time opponent of the dos Santos regime, he was investigated and convicted several times for his denouncements of the regime.
On his website Maka Angola, Marques said he had been formally invited to the meeting but was refused entry by presidential officials who said his name was not on the list.
But later, Marques said he had been invited on Wednesday morning to meet the president privately and he was told Lourenco regretted his being refused at the meeting.
"I think it shows the president's good will and I would be honoured to meet him," he said, adding that he would discuss "key concerns of the people" during the talks.