Angola: Dos Santos Says He’ll Quit In 2018. Does He Mean It This Time?

Avatar
Written by Dana Sanchez

It’s a momentous announcement three decades too late, according to the DailyMaverick.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, 73, on Friday told his ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), that he will step down from office in 2018.

The announcement was unexpected and Dos Santos gave no reason for it, but it’s not the first time he promised to quit, only to change his mind later.

In 2001 dos Santos said he wouldn’t run in the next presidential election, then delayed the next election until 2008. He’ s still in power.

Many people either don’t believe him this time, or think it won’t make any difference if he does step down.

Few leaders of Dos Santos’ longevity — he’s been in power since 1979, about 37 years — have stepped down voluntarily anywhere in the world. He could show that it is possible to hand over power voluntarily, the DailyMaverick reported.

Dos Santos is Africa’s second longest-serving leader. Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is the longest serving, BBC reported.

The former Portuguese colony the biggest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Since the country’s 27-year civil war ended in 2002, it has enjoyed an economic boom. Critics say the wealth benefited only a small elite.

Angola is the largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

General elections are due in Angola in August 2017. If he’s stepping down in 2018, does this mean dos Santos will delay the election again?

Dos Santos’ authoritatian style hasn’t allowed challenges to his leadership in the MPLA. Critics accuse him of human rights abuses, BBC reported.

People are questioning his timing and who will succeed him, according to the Daily Maverick. The second-largest oil producing country in Africa, Angola is in economic crisis as lower oil prices gouge the government’s revenue. If he steps down, there are concerns he will choose his replacement. Likely candidates include his wealthy entrepreneurial daughter, Isabel, his son, Jose Filomeno, or Vice President Manuel Vicente.

What will it mean for Angola if he does step down?

Anyone who replaces dos Santos will have a hard time filling his shoes. He widely believed to have enriched his family, but he has political savvy. Upheaval within the ruling elite is likely, the DailyMaverick reported:

Dos Santos would be wise to recall the example of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, whose blatant grooming of his son Gamal Mubarak for the presidency played a major role in creating the social unrest which led to the Egyptian Revolution.

Not that stage-managed successions have to be a backward step. Sometimes, changing up the status quo forces a rethink from within the political establishment that can pave the way for reform, like in Cuba, where Raul Castro’s economic policies are markedly more open than his brother Fidel’s ever were, despite being rooted in the same orthodoxy.

At this point, however, such a positive outcome seems unlikely. Angola is still very much Dos Santos’s baby, and it would be foolish to rely on any kind of leadership change until he has actually been escorted out of the presidential palace — voluntarily or otherwise.

isabel