Dos Santos casts long shadow on Angolan election

Saturday August 20 2022
Angola election campaigns.

People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) supporters gather for the start of the campaign for the presidential election in 2022, at Largo das Escolas in Luanda on June 26, 2021. The election is on August 24. PHOTO | AFP


Angola is heading to its fifth General Election, the first without former president José Eduardo dos Santos, who died in July. But the political scheming in the country is still going on as if he were alive.

Dos Santos made history by organising three consecutive elections, and which his ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), won.

He died on July 8 in the Spanish capital Barcelona, five years after he left the presidency which he had held for 38 years. He was succeeded by João Lourenço, the current MPLA flagbearer. If he wins the August 24 election, the ruling party will continue enjoying an uninterrupted run since 1975.

President Lourenço is contesting for a second term.

“Dos Santos' death occurred at a point when Angola was preparing for elections. Whether we like it or not, this fact will have a bearing on the outcome of the elections,” said Prof João Pacatolo, lecturer of International Relations at the Angolan Private University (UPRA University).

He also argued that dos Santos’ status as an elder in Angolan politics, despite his death, may influence decisions by voters.


“Was dos Santos happy with his country’s leadership during his final days?” Mr Pacatolo rhetorically asked in an interview with The EastAfrican in Luanda on Monday.

In his final days, his family fell afoul of the government, with the latter pursuing an aggressive reclaiming of funds allegedly stolen from public coffers by the do Santos' family.

In fact, dos Santos’ family members showed recently that they were not on good terms with the country's leadership after they rejected an offer of a state funeral for their patriarch, before the polls.

In a letter, they indicated that they would allow him be buried only after the polls, perhaps hoping things would change.

“This shows that the ruling MPLA and dos Santos family members are not on good terms and this may have unexpected developments,” Mr Pacatolo added.

Spain finally released the body of dos Santos on August 17 after ascertaining that there had been no foul play in his death.

Dos Santos was once celebrated as the country’s peace architect for ending years of civil war and protecting his political enemies to negotiate for peace.

Earlier this month, Welwitchia dos Santos Tchizeé, a daughter of the former president who served as the ruling MPLA MP, went on social media to call on Angolans to vote for Adalberto Costa Júnior, a candidate of the main opposition party Unita.

“I am Tchizeé dos Santos, daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, and he told me to tell you that it is better to have Adalberto as president of Angola,” she says in a video message now available on YouTube.

Tchizeé dos Santos went further said Adalberto Costa Júnior was good for dialogue.

It is not the first time dos Santos family members have expressed their desire to see the opposition take Angola’s presidency.

In January 2020, Isabel dos Santos, the more famous sibling of the former first family, said that the current economic slowdown gives a candidate from Unita party a real chance of winning the 2022 polls and there are also speculations that she is behind the country’s opposition to dethrone the ruling MPLA from government.

Last week, President Lourenço accused Adalberto Costa Junior of being funded by his predecessor’s family, showing that the late dos Santos casts a long shadow on Angola elections. The accusation was not surprising.

Mr Junior, who denied the funding allegation, termed it mere political games.