Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who led Angola for 38 years, died Friday at a Barcelona clinic after two weeks of a heart attack, the government announced.
The Angolan executive reports the ex-president’s “great pain and sense of bewilderment” at the end of the morning at the age of 79. He bows “with the greatest respect and the greatest grace” to this historical figure who presided over the years with clarity and humanity. [au destin] Angola’s country, in very difficult times,” the statement added.
His successor, current President Joao Lorenzo, who heads the Lusophone and oil-rich state, has ordered five days of national mourning starting Saturday to honor his memory.
Two weeks in the hospital
The family of José Eduardo dos Santos revealed earlier this month that the former head of state had suffered a “cardio-respiratory arrest” on June 23. He was subsequently admitted to the intensive care unit. One of his daughters, Tchizé, an opponent of the current Angolan president, said in a statement to AFP that she wanted an autopsy on his remains, fearing that the body would soon be transferred to Angola. A few days ago, he filed a complaint in Spain for “presumed acts of attempted murder.”
Slum-born José Eduardo dos Santos, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, is accused of abusing Angola’s resources to support his family and loved ones while many of Angola’s 33 million people live below the poverty line.
Dos Santos, a former Marxist rebel who was not directly elected by the people, left power in 2017. He ruled the country with an iron fist, but his imprint did not last long after he left.
A dictatorial leader
When José Eduardo dos Santos came to power in 1979, Angola had been mired in civil war for four years following its independence from Portugal. A long and difficult war – 27 years in which some 500,000 people died – he pitted the South African apartheid regime and the United States against Jonas Savimbi’s Unita, backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba. After the 2002 ceasefire, Angola became the continent’s leading producer of black gold, neck and neck with Nigeria.
Rarely in public, he maintains full control over his party, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has earned him frequent reappointments as head of state, where he heads the government, army, police and judiciary. Under his rule, the media was silenced and rare outbreaks of popular protest were suppressed.
Belongs to a simple family
Born on August 28, 1942, into a modest family, José Eduardo dos Santos, whose father was a mason, grew up in the “barrio,” or district, of Sambisanga, a slum in Luanda that has been at the heart of the anti-authoritarian struggle. Colonization of Botugus. On scholarship, he studied engineering in Azebaïdjan. There he married Tatiana Kukanova, a Soviet national, the mother of his eldest daughter, Isabelle, whom Forbes called Africa’s richest woman a few years ago.
In the 1970s, he continued his political ascent by joining the central committee of the MPLA. He became head of diplomacy at independence in 1975, and four years later he was invested as head of state by the party that assumed the presidency. After that he was not directly elected, but relinquished power through elections and constitutional changes.
He announced his retirement at the end of 2016 when rumors suggested he was suffering from cancer, after citing the exhaustion of a “very long” reign. A few months later he vacated his seat as promised to his runner-up, Joao Lorenzo. He later married Ana Paula, a former maid 18 years his junior, with whom he fathered several children.
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