It was not clear when things worsened. Life inside any presidential palace can be full of secrecy. The people outside often look up to the first family for strength, hope, knowledge, inspiration, direction and comfort. But those inside the beautiful golden walls often experience fear, chaos, ignorance, unpredictability, sudden removal from power, pain and even death.
Ana Afonso Dias Lourenço, an economist, politician and former government minister, who has served as the First Lady of Angola since September 2017 as the wife of President João Lourenço, was in pain recently, and she needed an immediate evacuation to the United States for treatment in one of the top hospitals in the world.
After all, she had lived in the United States for four years when she was an executive director of the World Bank in Washington D.C. and still has an apartment in Maryland, a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware and the Atlantic Ocean to its east.
Her husband is said to receive regular check-ups from a clinic in Orlando in Florida.
But with the U.S. borders closed by President Donald Trump in March to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, her medical evacuation to the United States was not possible.
And so, the oil-rich African nation organized a VIP trip for the First Lady from Luanda, the Angolan capital, to Paris, the capital of France accompanied by two US doctors.
According to a report, she is being treated in the American Hospital of Paris, one of most prestigious private hospitals in the world frequented by celebrities, presidents, princes, kings and queens.
Karl Lagerfeld, German creative director, fashion designer, artist, photographer and caricaturist, died in the hospital on February 19, 2019, while Joachim Yhombi-Opango, the former President of the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville, died there from COVID-19 on March 30, 2020.
A room in the hospital goes for at least 300 euros ($326) per night while a presidential suite used by first ladies and heads of state runs into thousands of dollars per night.
A report in French described how patients at the hospital are treated like royalties. There is a nurse for four patients compared to one for ten patients at public hospitals in Paris.
Giving birth at that hospital founded in 1906 is safe but comes with a heavy price tag of over $10,000.
Officially, anyone can get treatment there, but almost all the patients occupying the 197 beds in the hospital are people with deep pockets.
The Angola First Lady
Local reports said the presidential couple’s third daughter, Ana Isabel Dias Lourenço, who is studying in the United Kingdom, had to self-isolate when she returned to Luanda in early May, while their two other daughters – Cristina Giovanna Dias Lourenço and Ana Isabel Dias Lourenço – are in Luanda at the moment.
The third is said to live in Maryland where she recently gave birth to a son.
“She is married to the son of General Norberto Santos, often called “Kwata Kanawa”, a heavyweight of the ruling MPLA party’s political bureau and a man of influence among the Chokwe people,” a report said.
Ana Dias Lourenço is not the only African VIP to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
Nigerian politicians and their private jets are also stuck at home like all other ordinary Nigerians with ill-equipped hospitals all around them amid COVID-19 pandemic as their billions of stolen assets sit idle abroad, unable to serve them any good in their own country.
“It is bad, they cannot go anywhere. It’s not just their money they cannot access, they cannot access their medication,” said a Lagos resident who pleaded to remain anonymous.
“Even with their private jets, they cannot fly because there are flight restrictions everywhere,” the resident who is close to top Nigerian politicians in Lagos and Abuja, said.
“They did not build our hospitals, they stole all the money and took it abroad, they sent their children abroad and when they are sick, they quickly fly abroad. Even the President frequently flies to London to be revived. But with COVID-19, they cannot go anywhere. They are now stuck at home like other poor Nigerians who have been dying from preventable diseases for a very long time,” the resident added.
“It is a bad thing COVID-19 is killing Nigerians but I hope the big thieves in our country will learn a big lesson – the futility of stealing everything from here and investing it elsewhere.”
Like Nigeria, corruption has continued to escalate in Angola, an oil-rich but impoverished nation, while health facilities have remained ill-equipped, and doctors and nurses have been neglected by a government elite that can always fly outside to seek the kind of VIP treatment ordinary Angolans cannot afford.
But with COVID-19 and travel restrictions in the United States and elsewhere, African VIPs find themselves in a quagmire, in the same predicament those they have oppressed for years have come to accept.