23 August 2017

Africa's second longest serving President Eduardo Dos Santos Steps down

The Southern Country of Angola is going to the polls today to elect a new president with only over 9 million out of 28 million people registered to vote, including 4, 000 citizens living in the diaspora. The long time Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is stepping down after serving 38 years on the seat.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos was born on 28th August, 1942 from humble beginnings as his father was a bricklayer. He joined the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola as a teenager and rose quickly through party ranks as a fighter during Angola’s fight for independence from Portugal. He advanced his studies in the Soviet Union and he pursued degrees in petroleum engineering and radar communications. He has been married three times and has 7 children, one of which is Africa’s Richest Woman Isabel dos Santos. Isabel who equally heads the national oil company called Sonangol, which forms the heart of Angola’s economy. She has private interests in a wide sector and this includes, banking, telecommunications, cement and supermarkets nationally and notable investments in Portugal too.

Now 74 years old and reportedly in bad health, dos Santos was sworn in as President in 1979, after the death of his predecessor Agostinho Neto. He is the second longest-serving African leader. Although he has been credited for leading the country out of the war and fostering a post-war oil boom, he has also been criticized for his authoritarian style of leading.

Dos Santos set the path for Angola to become sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest economy by ditching the Marxist ideology and establishing a liberalized free market economy. He also developed the oil-sector in Angola, building relationships with China and being their oil supplier. This success and praise has also come with criticism as the president is accused for focusing on amassing wealth for his family and ignoring the social and economic needs of the citizens as more than 70% of the population still lives under $2/day. Many wonder if the new elected President will spread the wealth or things will remain the same.

The challenge of his political career was enhanced by his main rival the National Union for the Total Integration of Angola (UNITA) which had support from the South African and United States of America governments that opposed the legitimacy of MPLA rule, which had support from the Soviet Union and Cuba led governments. This triggered civil war that lasted 27 years and was due to MPLA and UNITA, who were two liberation movements fighting for domination.

After 16 years of civil unrest and 300,000 being killed, elections were conducted led by the United Nations and Jose dos Santos won the elections against his main rival Jonas Savimbi who led UNITA by a 49.575 VS 40.07% win, A second round of elelctoral proves should have taken place but did not and instead a 3-day war broke oyer that left tens of thousands UNITA followers massacred by MPLA led forces,  

In 2001, dos Santos announced that he would step down at the next presidential elections, but in December 2003 he was re-elected as head of MPLA and no further elections took place despite the same announcement being made in 2006, 2007 and finally 2009,

In 2008, MPLA won a landslide victory which led to the revision of the Constitution and this declared that the leader with the most votes in Parliament would be declared winner.

In 2016, he made another announcement that he was retiring in 2018 following the elections but people are questioning whether he is truly stepping down as hewill not relinquish his powers out rightly as he will still remain as the leader of the MPLA and will be immune from persecution.

How do elections work in Angola?

  • Every Angolan citizen over the age of 18 is entitled to vote, and voter registration is compulsory
  • Voters do not vote directly for a president. Instead, the leader of the party with a parliamentary majority becomes head of state
  • The 1992 constitution included the direct election of a president, but a new constitution in 2010 substituted this

MPs are elected for five-year terms by a mix of both proportional representation and a constituency-based system

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