A welcome change of guard in Angola

2017-08-27 05:58
João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço is the new president of the southern African country. Picture: Reuters

João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço is the new president of the southern African country. Picture: Reuters

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One of Africa’s longest political reigns has come to an end, but Angola’s governing party has stretched its decades-long dominance of the political terrain following a legislative election this week.

The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has been in power since 1975 – after the demise of centuries of colonial rule and subjugation by Portugal – secured an outright victory in an election that officially confirmed the withdrawal of José Eduardo dos Santos from public office.

The MPLA commanded an unassailable 64.57% lead, while its main rival, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, garnered 24.25% of the vote.

Dos Santos (74), who has been in power since September 1979, when he succeeded Agostinho Neto, had been the second-longest-serving president in Africa, surpassed only by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, who came to power a few weeks before Dos Santos did.

In Dos Santos’ place, following Angolan law stipulating that the top candidate of the winning party automatically becomes president, Defence Minister João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço (63) will be sworn in as the country’s third leader.

While Dos Santos is widely accused of ruling the resources-rich country with an iron fist, the incoming Lourenço is perceived as a reformist.

It is anticipated that, under his leadership, Angola will flex its economic muscles as an emerging democracy and fulfil its potential as an economic giant in southern Africa, where it is the biggest country by area.

Angola is Africa’s second largest oil producing nation after Nigeria and boasts vast diamond resources.

Expectations are high among Angolans that Lourenço will turn the country’s economic fortunes around after the price of crude oil fell to its lowest level in more than a decade last year, which pushed Angola’s currency to record lows.

The mood is exuberant in the country’s major cities of Luanda, the capital, Cabinda, Huambo Benguela, Kuito, Lobito, Malanje and N’dalatando.

Mateus Fernandes, who lives in Huambo, said: “I did not vote in the previous elections, but, for this election, I was motivated by the fact that Dos Santos finally saw the light and decided to pass on the baton.

“For the first time, I am witnessing democracy in my country. This is something we used to hear about in other African countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Zambia, where the baton was passed on without hassle.”

Information technology vendor Joaquim Bile, who is based in Luanda, welcomed the change of guard.

“Political stability always comes with a constant change of leadership, as opposed to life presidencies.

"While I’m happy with Lourenço’s election, I would like to give credit to Dos Santos for displaying political maturity. We now have hope in the country’s prospects,” Bile said. – CAJ News

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