Angola’s dos Santos out to retain through new ruler

Monday September 4 2017

Mr Eduardo dos Santos with Angola’s new president Joao Louren hold hands during the closing campaign rally in Luanda, on August 19, 2017. PHOTO | MARCO LONGARI | AFP

Mr Eduardo dos Santos with Angola’s new president Joao Louren hold hands during the closing campaign rally in Luanda, on August 19, 2017. PHOTO | MARCO LONGARI | AFP 

More by this Author

Since presidency for life became politically unattainable in Africa and presidential term limit fashionable, incumbents have sought ways of retaining power.

Most in vogue tactic is via referendum to amend constitutions and eliminate term limitation. That’s a sort of manufacturing “The will of the people.” The process passes as democracy smirched.

Former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, 74, and in power for 38 years, has invented a new tactic: He’s turned himself into a for-life-rule as casually as if he was walking on a beach.

First Dos Santos anointed successor, Joao Lourenco, 62. He’s former general, defence minister and deputy leader of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the MPLA, in Portuguese acronym.

Presumably as a reward for his long-service, the legislators created a constitution position of President Emeritus—awarding Dos Santos all presidential packs.

The MPLA awarded him continuation as the party’s leader.


In late last month elections, the MPLA lost a little ground, winning 61.1 per cent of votes cast. The main opposition, and MPLA foe in a 27 civil war that ended in 2002, the National Union for Total Liberation of Angola, UNITA, got 26.7 per cent. The turnout was slightly more than 72 per cent.

With 150 seats in the 220-seat parliament, the MPLA was entitled to choose the president and can pass any legislation without UNITA’s participation.

Dos Santos had, of course, chosen the president, the third since independence from Portugal.

On the campaign trail, Lourenco vowed to fight corruption, revive and open the economy  to the world, spread infrastructure developments in the rest of the country, now concentrated in the capital, Luanda, reduce dependency on oil the revenue—about all Angola can boast of—and fight corruption, of which Angola is infamous for.


He didn’t rule out deals with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

That’s fine. Looking at the state of Angola is in though, remains the starting point for the new president. With oil prices continuously low, the state revenue is low and the economy wobbly.

That’s bad news for a country that imports nearly everything, down to washing power and long-lasting milk.

That may not matter much for ordinary Angolan’s. The country is awash with abject poverty.

As critics have pointed out, Angola’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of Dos Santos family dynasty, the political and military elites.


They invest overseas, especially Portugal.

Do Santos daughter, Isabel, reportedly the wealthiest woman in Africa, for example, is a force to reckon with in Portuguese real estate, banking and media sectors.

Her brother runs the sovereign wealth fund.

Most important though is the MPLA has a grip and will continue to, on Angola. It’s inconceivable, therefore, Dos Santos will dismantle his dynasty or Lourenco defy the party chairman and do so. It’s a wait-and-see the era of Grandpa-President-for-Life portends.