From PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News) – THE man earmarked to be the next president of Angola, Joao Lourenco (63), has come full circle in almost two decades as far as his relationship with his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is concerned.
At a party congress held in 1998, then a governor of the largest province, Moxico, he was elected Secretary-General of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
His election was said to be linked to the favor of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and it was thought he could potentially succeed the long-ruling dos Santos at some point.
However, after dos Santos said in 2001 that he would not seek re-election as President, Lourenço openly expressed an interest in becoming the MPLA’s presidential candidate and thereby damaged his standing with the long-time leader, who in reality had no real intention of leaving office.
This proved his downfall as Juilão Mateus Paulo succeeded him as MPLA Secretary-General at a December 2003 party congress.
DidierPeclard, an expert in African politics, said the president and his closest aides considered the ex-general as beingopportunistic; hence he was forced into several years of “political purgatory.”
“Dos Santos’ apparent flirtation with resignation was merely a politicalmanoeuvre to bring those in the party with ambitions out of the woodwork,and Joao Lourenco paid the price,”” said Peclard.
He would later emerge as the First Vice-President of the National Assembly from 2003 to 2014, when dos Santos appointed him to the key position as defence minister and was designated as Vice-President of the MPLA in August 2016.
Four months later, in the wake of the unprecedented announcement by the long-time leader, in power for over 37 years, that he would not be available for election, the ruling partydesignated Lourenço as the party’s top candidate for the 2017 legislative election.
While he has been in cabinet for only three years, Lourenco is no greenhorn in Angolan politics.
Born in a politically engaged family, to a nurse-cum nationalist and a seamstress mother in Lobito, as a young man, Lourenco fought against Portugal’s rule of Angola and in the civil war that erupted between the MPLA government and National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels after independence in 1975.
A holder of a master’s degree in Historical Sciences, attained during military training in the Soviet Union, Lourenço’s early politics were mainly confined within the MPLA as an officer responsible for keeping guerrilla soldiers’ morale high.
He has ever been upbeat of his chances in the poll.
“We are working toward a comfortable victory. We are going to make every effort to have a transparent administration,” Lourenco said.
His campaign has been premised on a pledge to revive an economy bogged down by the challenges afflicting the oil sector globally and halting corruption.
He is seen as of the few Angolan generals and politicians who is untainted by suspected involvement in corruption scandals.
Critics say corruption flourished under his predecessor and the new man will have a monumental challenge reversing the rot with dos Santos retaining his leadership of the MPLA, a former liberation movement that has governed with an iron fist.
“Mr dos Santos is aiming for an organised, gradual transition,” said Alex Vines, Africa director at Chatham House.
“That could mean Mr Lourenço, an MPLA veteran who has been in the cabinet for only three years, will struggle to make his mark.”
Yet, he would be entering office at a critical period as the government grapples with an economic crisis triggered by the fall in oil prices and mounting frustration over graft, rampant unemployment and rising prices.
He believes he will be equal to the task.
“The best way to honor the esteem and appreciation of all will be to continue the process of political, economic and social development in Angola. Count me in for this endeavour,” he said.
– CAJ News
From PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola