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Angolan strongman says he'll retire in 2018

March 11, 2016

This is not the first time dos Santos, Africa's second longest serving dictator, has said he will give up power. He seized power in 1979 and proceeded to create a class of uber wealthy on the backs of the poor.

Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Camama
Image: Reuters/S. Sibeko

One of Africa's longest serving dictators says he'll step down in 2018, after nearly 40 years in power.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos came to power in 1979, and has ruled over the mineral-rich country ever since.

"I took the decision to leave active political activity in 2018," Dos Santos, 73, said in a speech to members of his ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party's key decision-making body.

But many question whether dos Santos, will actually step down. They note that the timing of his planned departure is odd, and that he has pledged to go in the past, only to do an about-face later.

The doubters include Alcides Sakala, the speaker of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the main opposition party.

"This is not the first time that the president has done this," Sakala told DW. "He has done it a couple of times but after that he stayed in power."

Angola Lobito Dislodged camp in Cabrais
400 people remain virtually homeless one year after stormImage: Nelson Sul D'Angola

This is the third time dos Santos announced his retirement from politics. Opposition member of parliament, Benedito Daniel, a group leader of the Social Renewal Party, also has his doubts.

"We've heard these promises before, but they never come true," he told DW. "I'll wait and see."

Vote and leave

Others point to the incongruity of leaving office one year after the vote.

"The elections are in 2017, not in 2018. He should quit before the elections," said Afonso Kangulo, 42, who is jobless and blamed the government for the weak economy.

Angola is Africa's second largest oil producer, after Nigeria, and a member of OPEC. The plunge in oil prices has hammered Africa's third largest economy, forcing the government to seek financial help from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Angola Lobito Family in Dislodged camp in Cabrais
The children don't go to schoolImage: Nelson Sul D'Angola

Critics accuse dos Santos of looting Angola's oil wealth and creating a financial elite, mainly his family and political allies, on the backs of one of the world's poorest countries.

His announcement has sparked succession talk. Vice-President Manuel Vicente - former head of state oil firm Sonangol - is one potential successor.

"(Dos Santos) has been grooming Vicente for quite a while now ... He has deputized him on a number of important occasions, which sent a strong signal," said Gary van Staden, a Johannesburg-based political analyst with NKC African Economics.

Lop-sided Angola vote to keep Dos Santos in power

Others say the president is grooming his son, Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, to succeed him. The younger Dos Santos heads Angola's sovereign wealth fund.

"It may mean the succession is in progress and that it will be a dynastic one," said Nelson Bonavena, an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of Angola and political analyst.

bik/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)