Angola: Dos Santos to resign as party president in September?

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Africa Riskwatch - Issue 11 - May 2018
Corruption investigations in the coming months will continue to weaken dos Santos

Former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos (1977-2017) has long been subject to strong criticism and under huge pressure to resign Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola’s (MPLA) party president. Following a meeting of the MPLA’s political bureau on 27 April, a statement has been released announcing that it would hold an extraordinary party congress in the first half of September, and that the party had approved national president’s Lourenço’s candidacy for the MPLA presidency.This endorsement means that Lourenço is highly likely to be the only candidate contesting the party presidency.

Lourenço’s growing control

The Lourenço administration has launched corruption investigations into members of the dos Santos family and cancelled public contracts held by companies in which they hold interests. A number of dismissals and reshuffles have also seen members of the dos Santos family and their allies removed from key posts. The latest of these was on 23 April, when army chief Gen Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda and long-standing foreign intelligence agency head André de Oliveira Sango were dismissed. Meanwhile, Lourenço has appointed a number of figures who are hostile towards dos Santos. For example, Fernando Garcia Miala – whom dos Santos effectively banished from politics in 2006 – was appointed head of the State Intelligence and Security Services (SINSE) on 12 March, and a number of his allies have taken up other senior posts in the security services.

These reshuffles weaken dos Santos and ensure that Lourenço has allies in charge of key state institutions. The party presidency will also give him a large degree of control over the MPLA and its parliamentary majority. The use of proportional representation to elect members of parliament means that lawmakers’ careers depend not on their popularity with voters, but on their inclusion in party electoral lists, over which the MPLA president has significant influence. Lourenço will use this influence to ensure that his proposed reforms are guaranteed parliamentary support.

Reform agenda

Lourenço has already embarked on wide-ranging reforms. These include partial liberalisation of the kwanza (currency) exchange rate, with plans for further liberalisation; legislative reviews in a number of sectors, including the oil and gas sector, intended to simplify investment procedures and remove restrictions on FDI; and a reduction in the role of state-owned companies in various sectors. These reforms have been implemented relatively quickly to date, but are likely to face increasing opposition as they begin to threaten the vested interests of senior MPLA figures and affect the living conditions of ordinary Angolans. Lourenço’s growing authority over party and state structures is likely to help him overcome this opposition.

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