Angolan Leader Dos Santos to Step Down After 38 Years in Power

  • Defense Minister Lourenco named MPLA presidential candidate
  • Angola’s had same ruler since 1979, vote planned for August

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979, won’t stand as the ruling party’s top candidate in elections this year, ending an era that was burdened by civil war while he expanded oil output to rival Nigeria as Africa’s biggest producer.

Defense Minister Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco will be the pick for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola in the August vote, Dos Santos said at the opening of the MPLA’s central committee meeting in Luanda, the capital, on Friday. Bornito de Sousa, the minister of territorial administration, is the vice presidential candidate.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

Photographer: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

The party holds 175 seats in the 220-seat parliament and is likely to win the election. Under the Angolan constitution, the leader of the party that polls the most votes becomes president.

The Soviet-educated Dos Santos, 74, is Africa’s second-longest serving leader after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who took power the same year. The president hung onto power during a 27-year conflict in which his Soviet- and Cuban-backed army battled rebels supported by South Africa’s white minority government and the U.S. He won another five-year term in 2012. Last year he appointed his billionaire daughter Isabel dos Santos as chairwoman of the state oil company, Sonangol.

Oil Slump

Lourenco, 62, was named the ruling party’s deputy leader in August, establishing him as the clear front-runner to replace Dos Santos. His nomination sidelines Manuel Domingos Vicente, who has served as vice president since 2012, is the former head of Sonangol and was once touted by Dos Santos as a possible successor.

Born in the port city of Lobito in 1954, Lourenco trained as a nurse. He served in Angola’s army, rising through its ranks to become a three-star general. He was the MPLA’s secretary-general from 1998 to 2003, and during his tenure had a fallout with Dos Santos when he suggested the president shouldn’t seek re-election. His prior jobs include being first vice president of the nation’s parliament.

Should Lourenco assume the presidency next year as expected, he will take charge of an economy that’s reeling from a slump in the price of oil, which accounts for 70 percent of revenue and almost all exports. In July, Dos Santos said his government was generating “barely enough” revenue to pay off its debt.

The International Monetary Fund expects the $103 billion economy to stagnate this year and expand just 1.3 percent in 2017. Public debt is forecast to exceed 70 percent of gross domestic product by year-end, while the inflation rate is likely to reach 45 percent, the Washington-based lender said in a Nov. 16 statement.

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