Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos confirmed on Friday he will not run in this year’s presidential election, calling an end to 38 years as head of state, but he will retain control of the powerful ruling party.
Dos Santos, aged 74, said in March 2016 he would not run in elections due in August but opponents remained suspicious given he had reneged on similar pledges during nearly four decades running Angola.
In June 1975, dos Santos became coordinator of the MPLA’s Department of Foreign Affairs; he also coordinated the MPLA’s Department of Health at this time. Upon Angolan independence in November 1975, the MPLA held power in Luanda, but the new MPLA government faced a civil war with the other political formations, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA). The same year, Dos Santos was appointed as Angola’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs upon independence, and in this capacity he played a key role in obtaining diplomatic recognition for the MPLA government in 1975–76. At the MPLA’s First Congress in December 1977, Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected to the Central Committee and Politburo. In December 1978, he was moved from the post of First Deputy Prime Minister in the government to that of Minister of Planning
After the death of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, on 10 September 1979, José Eduardo dos Santos was elected as President of the MPLA on 20 September 1979, and he took office as President of Angola, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 21 September. He was also elected as President of the People’s Assembly on 9 November 1980
Defence Minister Joao Lourenco will be the presidential candidate for the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), dos Santos said ahead of a party meeting where candidates for the vote will be confirmed.
Dos Santos, will remain president of the MPLA, retaining sweeping powers that include choosing parliamentary candidates and appointing top posts in the army and police.
His inscrutable public demeanour belies his tight control of Angola, a former Portuguese colony where he has overseen an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. The MPLA won parliamentary majorities in the three elections since the end of the war.
Lourenco, deputy president of the MPLA, is viewed as a dos Santos ally. Angola, an OPEC member and Africa’s second biggest oil exporter, has been hit hard by the slump in global crude prices in the last two years.
Oil export revenues account for more than 90 percent of foreign exchange revenues. Inspite pf its oil wealth, most people live in poverty and critics accuse dos Santos of enriching himself and his associates, including his billionaire daughter, Isabel, named by Forbes as Africa’s richest woman.
Isabel dos Santos was appointed by her father as head of the state oil company Sonangol last year and his son Jose Filomeno is chairman of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund.