Angola’s Lourenço faces reelection contest without edge of ‘newness’

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Joao Lourenço’s supporters carry posters in Luanda in 2017 during a campaign rally. President Lourenço is widely expected to recapture his seat this August. PHOTO | AFP

By ARNALDO VIEIRA

President João Lourenço of Angola is often seen as a man who broke the country’s monotony of one leader for decades, even though he himself had been close to the top echelons of power for some time.

Now, the man who replaced José Eduardo dos Santos, who had ruled for 38 years, is coming up to face a reelection contest. When the polls are held this August, Lourenço will no longer enjoy the gift of newness. His critics say he faces old questions of his predecessor.

Dos Santos reign saw his closest allies including family members enriched as the country struggled with many bone-poor people, in spite of being southern Africa’s biggest oil producer.

In 2017, President Lourenço took over from dos Santos as Angola and ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) leader following the general election, the first time the country had seen a peaceful transfer of power.

Some 20 days after his inauguration, President Lourenço promised, during his first State of the Nation address in parliament, to create more jobs and diversify the economy away from oil dependency. He also promised to fight against corruption and nepotism.

“President Lourenço would have done very well if, from what he gave us as light and hope, he would have promoted democracy for the country. He had that capacity, and has that capacity, but now it is a little late,” said Archbishop Zacarias Kamwenho in a talk show with Rádio Ecclseia last week.

“Liberty and democracy have not yet arrived,” the cleric told the station in a popular show.

Just one year after his election President Lourenço started implementing measures seen as radical, by the country’s civil society.

He sacked José Filomeno dos Santos Zenú as the head of the Strategic Sovereign Fund, and fired Isabel dos Santos as the chair of the board of the state-owned oil firm Sonangol. These are the former President’s children.

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