Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, is announcing an end to his 38 years in power, saying Friday he will not run again in this year’s election.
The Portuguese news agency Lusa reported dos Santos’ comments during an address to his ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola party, or MPLA. Defense minister Joao Lourenco will be the party’s candidate for president in the election set for August, while dos Santos remains the party leader.
Dos Santos, 74, has led Angola, one of Africa’s largest oil producers, since 1979. The southern African nation, a former Portuguese colony, was ripped by the continent’s longest civil war until 2002.
In March last year, reports said dos Santos told the ruling party he would leave politics in 2018.
But the investigative news website Maka Angola reported Friday that dos Santos hardly appears to be leaving active politics, with his name on the ruling party’s list of candidates for members of parliament — ranked third after Lourenco and the vice president candidate, Bornito de Sousa.
Dos Santos and his family, who control some of Angola’s top posts, are expected to remain a formidable presence even after he leaves office. In June, he appointed his daughter, Isabel, as head of the state oil company, Sonangol. She is reported to be the richest woman in Africa. Son José Filomeno leads the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
Recently, low oil prices have hit Angola hard. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries says oil production makes up about 45 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and more than 95 percent of its exports.
Angola’s government, ranked 164th out of 176 countries on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, has long been accused of failing to spread its oil wealth to the population at large.
One of the challenges ahead for the country is “strengthening the economy,” Lourenco said Friday. According to an official biography posted online, the 62-year-old participated in the fight for independence from Portugal before receiving military training in the Soviet Union and returning home to a series of political posts, including party secretary-general. He speaks English, Russian and Spanish.
Dos Santos, the son of a bricklayer, is the country’s second president.
In 1961, he became a teenage guerrilla for the MPLA in the fight for independence from Portugal. He was soon sent to the Soviet Union for training as a petroleum engineer and military telecommunications specialist.
When he returned to Angola in 1970, he negotiated compromises to keep the MPLA from breaking up and as a reward was appointed to the party’s central committee. When independence arrived in 1975, dos Santos became foreign minister in a single-party Marxist state.
In a surprise choice, the MPLA elected dos Santos as 37-year-old president upon the death of Agostinho Neto in 1979.