President who ruled Angola for decades dies — Analysis

Former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who led the African nation for 38 years, died aged 79 in Barcelona’s Teknon clinic on Friday after a lengthy illness, his country’s government has confirmed. 

Current Angolan President Joao Lourenco, who served as defense minister under dos Santos, has declared five days of national mourning, calling his predecessor, who stepped down in 2017, a “Unique figure in the Angolan homeland that he dedicated his life to from an early age.”

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Dos Santos considered himself to be an “accidental president,” having assumed power after Angola’s first independent leader Agostinho Neto died during surgery. He presided over a period of dramatic change in the country’s fortunes. After winning a grueling civil war that lasted nearly three decades against US-backed insurgents in 2002, he oversaw an oil boom that expanded the size of the country’s economy by more than tenfold. 

However, despite the supposedly Marxist principles initially held by his MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party and the nation’s more recent economic prosperity, the majority of the population was reportedly still living on under $2 per day when dos Santos stepped down after 38 years as leader ahead of the 2017 election. 

Lourenco, despite having worked in dos Santos’ administration, soon turned on his benefactor’s family with a massive anti-corruption campaign that targeted both his daughter Isabel, who ran state oil company Sonangol, and his son Jose Filomeno, who ran the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Isabel was dismissed and she was accused of embezzlement as well as money laundering. To avoid trial, Isabel fled to Dubai. Jose Jr. was also convicted of financial crimes. He received a five year sentence, but he can appeal.  

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Dos Santos lived in Spain, where he was receiving treatment for the fatal illness. On Thursday, he was taken to intensive care. He is survived by Ana Paula de Lemos, his wife and six children. These include Jose Filomeno, Jose Eduardo Paulino and Danilo Lemos.

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