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ANGOLAN JOSE EDUARDO DOS SANTOS CONFIRMS HIS RETIREMENT AFTER THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS IN POWER

February 05, 2017 | Uhuruspirit

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (r) and his heir apparent, Joao Lourenço



The Central Committee of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has approved Joao Lourenço as its presidential candidate for the August elections. This was made known by President Edouardo dos Santos on Friday while announcing that he would step down after the elections.

The confirmation of dos Santos’ retirement comes as the country rumors about his illness.

Dos Santos, 74, who came to power in 1979, was defeated just one month ago by the current president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, as dean of African presidents.

"Many Angolans will be watching a change of president for the first time," Alex Vines of the British reflection center Chatham House told AFP. “This is a turning point in the history of modern Angola, "added the expert.

In 2016, Dos Santos first publicly mentioned his retirement by stating that he would leave power in 2018. And in December, internal sources of the party had revealed that he would not run for another term. But this information had not been confirmed officially, opening the door to all kinds of rumors. Mr. Dos Santos has long been suspected of wanting to promote one of his children to perpetuate his rule over the country.

However, he confirmed on Friday that he would give way to Joao Lourenço, current defense minister and vice-president of the party, who enjoys a reputation as a "moderate."

A former general, the 62-year-old is part of the president's inner circle. As a young man he also fought against Portuguese colonial rule, and in the civil war that followed independence in 1975.

Lourenço will succeed dos Santos as Angolan president, if the ruling party wins in August.

The Angolan Constitution does not provide for a presidential election, but specifies that the post of head of state returns to the presidential candidate of the party that wins the legislative elections.

The departure of the former Marxist guerrilla opens a new page in the history of Angola but many analysts do not expect great upheavals.

"The population will realize that no one is eternal, but on a political level it will not change much," rapper and opponent Luaty Beirao predicted recently.

"Mr. Lourenço was chosen clearly because it is believed that he will not trample" the legacy "of dos Santos, confirmed Benjamin Augé, a country specialist at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

While dos Santos is about to give up his mandate as head of state, he will remain the head of the party. "This allows him to continue to influence the transition and protect his" legacy," notes Alex Vines.

The MPLA came to power in 1975 when Angola gained independence from Portugal. Mr. Dos Santos took the reins of the country four years later after the death of the historical leader of the party, Agostinho Neto.

Dos Santos then led the country to recovery after the end of its 27-year civil war against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), an organization that was then backed by the West and apartheid South Africa. The war had ended in 2002.

Since the end of the brutal war, many Angolans have accused Mr Dos Santos of being authoritarian and failing to distribute the proceeds from the oil boom more widely.

"He has six months left in power. We urge him to take advantage of this to correct his biggest mistakes (for example, revising the laws and decrees limiting freedom of expression), "said Zenaida Machado of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Last year, the president appointed his daughter Isabel dos Santos to head state-run oil firm Sonangol.

And when he leaves, Dos Santos will hand over to his heir apparent a country plunged in extreme poverty and stuck in an economic crisis provoked by the fall of the oil prices.



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