JOHANNESBURG â€” 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. Defence 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 he and his family, who control some of Angola’s top positions, are expected to remain a formidable presence. 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.
Recently, low oil prices have hit Angola hard. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries says oil production makes up about 45 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and more than 95 per cent 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.
Dos Santos, the son of a bricklayer, in 1961 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, Angola’s first president, in 1979.
Cara Anna, The Associated Press