ANGOLANS laugh a little louder as iron grip loosens.

A front page complains that the city traffic lights do not work, audiences laugh a little louder at risky political gags. and a policeman admits mistakes were made.

After decades of Iron rule in Angola, there are signs of a softer touch.

For sure, institutions from public media to the courts remain weak and the state almost all powerful, but President Joao Lourenco appears to be easing the grip held by his predecessor-

Jose Eduardo dos Santos - who governed for 38 years including nearly three decades of civil war.

Since taking over last September, Laurenco has promised to revive an economy battered by lower oil prices and tackle corruption. He also said he would nurture civil liberties.

Greater transparency in what was one of Africa's most secretive states could help restore investor confidence in the continent's second largest crude producer.

Laurenco is already being tested.

On a recent Saturday. in a poor and polluted corner of Luanda, around 70 men took to the streets, waving placards and and chanting for the removal of local government chief.

Just 8 months ago, this would have been unthinkable.

''Now with the new government there is a certain margin, a certain liberty and we are using that to make ourselves heard,'' said Denilson Alexandre,  a 28 year old accountancy student.

State news organizations covered the demonstration without labelling protesters dangerous delinquents.

National newspapers increasingly write about the lack of medication in hospitals or functioning traffic lights in Luanda.

State television and radio invite guests from opposition parties to discuss policy.

Ina recent debate, callers lambasted police commander as he repeatedly apologized for the heavy handed tactics of the past and guaranteed the force was working to correct  errors

''We want our public media to actually serve the public, and not the government.'' Social Communications Minister Joko Melo told Reuters. [Agencies].


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