(BY MANUEL LUAMBA AND GUILHERME CORREIA DA SILVA)
Appointed recently as the Angolan presidential candidate of the ruling MPLA for the upcoming elections, former army general and current defence minister Joao Lourenço is preparing to take over from outgoing President Eduardo dos Santos.
‘Ailing’ dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, said he would step aside and not seek another term in office.
“The party approved the name of the candidate heading the list in the August elections as Joao Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço,” 73-year-old dos Santos, Africa’s second-longest serving head of state behind Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Nguema Obiang, said.
Angolans have been speculating for years whom dos Santos and the MPLA would choose as a successor. Many had expected a member of the dos Santos family.
Some said the president’s son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, who heads the country’s U$5 billion (4.7 billion euro) sovereign wealth fund, while others have predicting that the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, would succeed take over her father’s crown.
Isabel is Africa’s richest woman and runs Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol. Angola deputy president Manuel Vicente, who has close ties to the dos Santos family, was also tipped to become Angola’s future head of state.
However, Lourenço’s appointment took everybody by surprise.
Angolan opposition activist Nuno Dala is critical of Lourenco’s nomination. “Power in the country will remain in the hands of the military because Lourenco is a general,” he said.
Anti-corruption watchdogs such as Transparency International accuse the dos Santos family of having amassed their fortune corruptly.
However, Lourenco does not seem to face such allegations. Reports say he is one of the few Angolan generals and politicians who is free of suspected involvement in major corruption scandals.
“That is certainly to his advantage, because one has the sense that the new president could form an administration which is rather less corrupt,” said Dala. “But that doesn’t mean that corruption in Angola will disappear.”
Dala spent a year in jail with 16 other members of the opposition because of alleged involvement in a coup. He was released in June. Freedom of expression and the media is almost non-existent in Angola. Any criticism of the president, his associates or the ruling parties and government’s policies could lead to a lengthy prison sentence on ‘fake’ charges, torture, killing or even disappearance.
A Guinea Bissau investigating journalist and university lecturer, Milocas Pereira, who was working on an investigative story about ‘a dangerous link between the criminal regimes of Angola and Guinea Bissau’ president, disappeared around July 2012 in the capital Luanda.
She is nowhere to be found until today.
(DW/dpa, additional reports and final editing by Issa Sikiti). Photo: Angola ‘new’ President Joao Lourenço. Credit: DW/dpa