Angola: Death of ex-president Dos Santos, head of the country for 38 years

Angola: Death of ex-president Dos Santos, head of the country for 38 years

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who presided over Angola for 38 years, died Friday in the Barcelona clinic where he had been hospitalized for two weeks due to cardiac arrest, the government announced.

The Angolan executive reports “with a feeling of great pain and dismay the death” of Mr. dos Santos at the end of the morning at the age of 79.

He “bows, with the greatest respect and the greatest consideration” to this historical figure who, he affirms, presided “for many years with clarity and humanism [au destin] of the Angolan nation, at very difficult times,” the statement added.

His successor at the head of the Lusophone and oil-rich state, the current President Joao Lourenço, decreed a five-day national mourning from Saturday to honor his memory.

The family of Mr. dos Santos had revealed at the beginning of the month that the ex-head of state had suffered a “cardio-respiratory arrest” on June 23. He had since been hospitalized in intensive care.

Jose Eduardo Dos Santos during a meeting in Lunada on August 19, 2017 (AFP/Archives – MARCO LONGARI)

One of his daughters, Tchizé, an opponent of the current Angolan president, wants an autopsy of his remains, “for fear” that the body will be transferred to Angola quickly, she said in a statement to AFP. A few days earlier, she had filed a complaint in Spain for “presumed acts of attempted homicide”.

One of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, slum-born Mr dos Santos, is accused of vastly misappropriating Angolan resources favoring his family and loved ones, while many of Angola’s 33 million people live under the poverty line.

Never directly elected by the people, dos Santos, a former Marxist rebel, left power in 2017. He ruled the country with an iron fist but his mark did not survive his departure.

– Total control –

When José Eduardo dos Santos came to power in 1979, Angola had been in the throes of civil war for four years following its independence from Portugal.

A long and difficult war – some 500,000 dead in 27 years – which he led, with the support of the USSR and Cuba, against Jonas Savimbi’s Unita, supported by the South African apartheid regime and the States -United.

After the 2002 ceasefire, it made Angola the continent’s leading producer of black gold, neck and neck with Nigeria.

Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in the countryside near Luanda on August 29, 20212 (AFP/Archives - STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in the countryside near Luanda on August 29, 20212 (AFP/Archives – STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)

Rare in public, he maintains total control over his party, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which earned him constant reappointment as head of the country where he heads the government, army, police and judges.

Under his reign, the media were locked down and the rare outbreaks of popular protest suppressed.

Born on August 28, 1942 into a modest family, Mr. dos Santos, whose father is a mason, grew up in the “barrio” or district of Sambizanga, a slum in Luanda which is also the nucleus of the struggle against power. Potuguese colonial.

On a scholarship, he studied engineering in Azebaïdjan. There he married a Soviet, Tatiana Kukanova, mother of his eldest daughter Isabel, whom Forbes qualified a few years ago as the richest woman in Africa.

In the 1970s, he continued his political ascent by joining the Central Committee of the MPLA. He became head of diplomacy at independence in 1975, before being invested head of state four years later by the party, of which he took over the presidency.

He then no longer let go of power according to the elections and changes to the Constitution, without ever being directly elected.

After having mentioned his weariness of a “too long” reign, he announced his retirement at the end of 2016, when rumors said he was suffering from cancer. As promised, he leaves his place a few months later to his runner-up Joao Lourenço.

Then married to Ana Paula, an ex-stewardess 18 years his junior, he is the father of several children.

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