ANGOLA’S former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Africa’s second biggest oil producer for nearly four decades, died on Friday, the presidency said.
The 79-year-old died at the Teknon clinic in Barcelona, Spain, where he was being treated following a prolonged illness, according to the statement.
His successor, President Joao Lourenco, declared five days of national mourning and described dos Santos as a ‘unique figure of the Angolan homeland, to which he dedicated himself from a very early age.’
One of Africa’s longest serving leaders, dos Santos stepped down five years ago.
He frequently described himself as an accidental president, taking the reins after Angola’s first leader, Agostinho Neto, died during cancer surgery in 1979.
His rule was marked by a civil war lasting nearly three decades against US-backed UNITA rebels – which he won in 2002 – and a subsequent oil-fuelled boom.
He was replaced in 2017 by Lourenco, who despite being from the incumbent’s People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), swiftly moved to investigate allegations of multi-billion dollar corruption during the dos Santos era.
Dos Santos had been receiving medical treatment since 2019.
Portuguese news agency Lusa reported last month that the former president was admitted to an intensive care unit in Barcelona.
His daughter Tchizé dos Santos said in an Instagram post that ‘fathers never die because they are the truest love that children know in all their lives. They live forever within us.’
Her lawyer, Carmen Varela, said she has asked the clinic where he died to keep his body in Spain for a full autopsy rather than it being returned directly to Angola. The clinic declined to comment.
Angolan journalist and rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais, an outspoken critic of dos Santos, wrote earlier this week on an anti-corruption website that the former president’s political legacy was tarnished and ‘will not be missed but it leaves suffering.’
Tributes and criticism also came from ordinary citizens. Júlia João, a 44-year old homeworker in Luanda said dos Santos had presided well over the peaceful transition after the war, but squandered the chance to transform Angola.
‘It was a lost opportunity for Angola,’ she said.