Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos dies after prolonged illness: NPR

Former Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has died. Under his supervision, Angola became the second largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa – but the money never reached the people.

Themba Hadebe / AP

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Themba Hadebe / AP

Former Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has died. Under his supervision, Angola became the second largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa – but the money never reached the people.

Themba Hadebe / AP

Lisbon, Portugal – José Eduardo dos Santos, once one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, fought the continent’s longest civil war during nearly four decades as president of Angola and helped his country become a Major oil producer as well as making it one of the poorest and poorest countries in the world. The most corrupt countries died on Friday. He was 79 years old.

Dos Santos died at a clinic in Barcelona, ​​Spain, after a prolonged illness, the Angolan government said in an announcement on its Facebook page.

The declaration stated that dos Santos was “a statesman of great historical scale who ruled the Angolan nation through very difficult times.”

Dos Santos had mostly lived in Barcelona since leaving office in 2017 and was undergoing treatment there for health problems.

Angola’s current head of state, Joao Lourenço, declared five days of national mourning starting Saturday, when the country’s flag will fly at half-staff and public events will be cancelled.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recalled dos Santos’ involvement in the conflict that led to Angola’s independence and his leadership “through the signing of a peace agreement ending the civil war in 2002”, his spokesman said. “During his tenure, Angola became an important regional and international partner and supporter of multilateralism.”

The UN Security Council erected dos Santos as a silent tribute at the start of a meeting on Friday, when the current council president, Brazil’s UN ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho, expressed “sadness” at his death.

His public persona does not match his behind-the-scenes intrigues

Dos Santos came to power four years after Angola gained independence from Portugal and became involved in the Cold War as a proxy battlefield.

His political journey spanned the post-colonial years to a single-party Marxist regime and a democratic system of government adopted in 2008. When his health started deteriorating, he left the post voluntarily.

In public, dos Santos was simple and sometimes appeared shy. But he was a shrewd operator behind the scenes.

He kept a tight hold on the 17th-century presidential palace in Luanda, the Atlantic capital of the southern African country, by distributing Angola’s wealth among his army generals and political rivals to ensure his loyalty. He demoted someone he believed to have gained a level of popularity that could jeopardize his order.

Dos Santos’ greatest enemy for more than two decades was the leader of the UNITA rebels, Jonas Savimbi, whose post-independence guerrilla uprising aimed to oust dos Santos’ Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, into the bush. The battle was fought.

The MPLA received financial support from the Soviet Union and military aid from Cuba in the war against UNITA. Savimbi was supported by the United States and South Africa.

The war would last with a brief period of UN-mediated peace until 2002, when the military finally tracked down and killed Savimbi in eastern Angola.

Angola’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of the aristocracy

Dos Santos abruptly abandoned his Marxist policies after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. He moved closer to Western countries, whose oil companies mostly invested billions of dollars in offshore exploration.

His supporters praised his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. His critics called him dishonest.

Dos Santos was invited to the White House in 2004 by then-President George W. Bush as the United States tried to reduce its reliance on oil from the Middle East.

Angola became the second largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria, producing about 2 million barrels per day. It also unearthed diamonds worth more than $1 billion each year.

However, the wealth never reached the Angolan people, who during and after the Civil War were at risk from large areas of unmapped minefields and no access to basic amenities, such as running water or roads. Education and health care – and living – were scarce.

More than $4 billion in oil revenue disappeared from Angolan state coffers between 1997 and 2002, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a 2004 report, based on an analysis of International Monetary Fund data.

The US State Department said that wealth in Angola is “concentrated in the hands of a small elite, who often use government positions for personal enrichment on a large scale.”

Dos Santos was believed to own valuable real estate as well as foreign bank accounts in Brazil, France and Portugal.

Under his rule, and despite the general poverty, street protests were rare and were quickly broken up by heavily armed riot police known as “ninjas”. Inside the palace of dos Santos a well-paid and well-equipped presidential guard surrounded and lined the city’s filthy, potholed streets whenever he emerged.

He was not expected to last long in politics

The son of a bricklayer from Angola’s coastal capital Luanda, dos Santos began his political career with boots and a rifle in 1961 as an 18-year-old guerrilla for the MLPA in the fight for independence from Portugal.

The owners of the MPLA pulled him from the war in 1963 and sent him to the Soviet Union to train as a petroleum engineer and military communications specialist.

When he returned to Angola in 1970, he skilfully compromised to keep the MPLA from breaking up into separate groups, and was appointed as a prize to the party’s Central Committee.

When independence came in 1975, dos Santos became Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Minister of Planning and Deputy Prime Minister in a single-party Marxist state.

In a surprising choice, the MPLA elected dos Santos as president in 1979 upon the death of Angola’s first leader, Agostinho Neto, at the age of 37. Dos Santos was seen as a consensus among party veterans, but his political longevity was overestimated by some.

Dos Santos never sought to establish a personality cult and remained a mystical figure. He reportedly once said privately that he thought his real profession was that of a monk.

Nor was he known for political sensibility: he built a multimillion-dollar mansion on the edge of Luanda shantytown while millions of Angolans were fighting starvation during the civil war.

He got a surprise victory that sparked a series of internal conflicts

He was regarded as a definite loser against Savimbi in the country’s first democratic elections in 1992, following a peace treaty signed the previous year.

Former UN Special Representative to Angola Margaret Anste described dos Santos as almost the opposite of Savimbi.

He wrote in his 1996 book on Angola, “His demeanor was serious and reserved, to the extent that I detected a sense of shame or cowardice, absurd. Titled “Orphans of the Cold War.”

But in further proof of his staying power, dos Santos held out again, narrowly ousting Savimbi for president while simultaneously leading the MPLA to a parliamentary majority in the legislative election.

When Savimbi reconciled his defeat at the ballot box and returned to his armed struggle, Western support gradually followed dos Santos.

The enemies signed another peace deal brokered by the United Nations in 1994, but that too was settled four years later.

Meanwhile, dos Santos – with an army of about 100,000 soldiers, with many years of jungle warfare experience – played a role as a regional power broker, starting with neighboring countries.

He sent 2,500 troops to the Republic of the Congo in 1997 to help President Denis Sassou-Nguseso seize power, and the following year to the Congo to help President Laurent Kabila’s government fight rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

The end of Angola’s civil war in 2002 brought opportunities for extensive economic development in the southern African country, which is more than three times the size of California.

Corruption becomes an issue in Angola

But the public infrastructure was devastated; 4 million people – about a third of the population at the time – had fled their homes because of the fighting; And oil and diamond wealth continued to be in the hands of the political and military elite.

The Corruption Perceptions Index 2005 of Berlin-based Transparency International named Angola as one of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world.

As Stanford University economics professor John McMillan wrote in a 2005 study on Angolan, “as landmine-ravaged children beg in the streets, politicians’ wives move to New York on government health budgets.” Corruption.

Under pressure to eventually hold a ballot, dos Santos announced a legislative election in 2008 and a presidential election the following year.

The MPLA of dos Santos won the most votes for parliamentary seats. But then the head of state changed his stance, first postponing the presidential ballot and then canceling it.

He changed the constitution so that the president is elected by the party that wins the parliamentary election. This kept him in power for another eight years.

However, with his health reportedly deteriorating, dos Santos announced in 2016 that he would be retiring.

He was replaced by Lourenco, an MPLA veteran who has made the anti-corruption campaign his core policy. They have targeted the older children of dos Santos, who have illustrious personal wealth, but not their predecessors.

Changes in the fortunes of the family of dos Santos led one of their daughters to suspect that there was a conspiracy behind her father’s illness and death. Spanish prosecutors and police are investigating Tchize dos Santos’ allegations that people close to the former president tried to kill him, failed to care for him properly and acted recklessly.

Dos Santos, who was married four times, was survived by his current wife, Ana Paula, with whom he had three children. He is known to have at least three other children and various grandchildren.

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