The gradually straining relationship between former and current Angolan presidents
By Ben Oduor and Agencies
After serving Angola for close to 40 years (1979 to 2017), former Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos seems to be living a life not too royal as expected of notable retired African presidents.
The 77 year-old opted not to run for the 2017 elections, leaving the reigns to Joao Laurenco, a former Minister of Defence (from 2014 to 2017). And after taking over as President, Laurenco promised to tackle corruption, which had for some time crippled the oil rich nation.
The former President’s son, Jose Filomeno Dos Santos, would late 2018 be arrested, with a raft of allegations behind his name, including formation of a criminal organization, illegal enrichment, money laundering and corruption, according to the Angolan prosecutor.
Media reports also reveal that Zenu, as Jose Filomeno is known in the country, is also being investigated by the authorities on whether overseas transfers of $500million were lawful, as instructed by President dos Santos during his time as Chairman of the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
Over three years ago, sources disclose that Mr Filomeno was positioned as a possible successor to his father as president, but this did not materialize as Joao Laurenco, on September 26th 2017, took over as President of Angola, as well as President of MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), the country’s dominant and independence party.
Laurneco has since taken the war to the doorsteps of Angola’s once predominant vices nepotism, corruption and personality cults, and replaced a number of governors, ministers and senior state officials.
But the most shocking move was dismissal of former president’s first born daughter, Isabel dos Santos, as head of state oil company, Sonangol. This was followed by termination of several contracts the Angolan state had with the dos Santos clan. However, Isabel remains Africa’s richest woman, according to latest Forbes ranking on wealth, her wealth estimated at USD2.1 billion as of 2019.
An anonymous observer of Angolan political affairs while commenting on an article published by the African Report in August this year revealed that the relations between the current Angolan President Joao Laurenco and his predecessor, complicated even before the handover, was now at an impasse: “They have not spoken since last April, and Jose Eduardo dos Santos left for Spain.”
The former head of state reportedly refused to use the Angolan airline, TAAG or use the protocol service associated with his status to make the trip, suggesting he no longer trusted the state to ensure his safety.
“The incident caused embarrassment at the presidential palace. Laurenco even visited his predecessor to convince him to change his mind. It was a waste of time. Dos Santos flew to Barcelona on the Portuguese carrier, TAP,” notes the African Report.
Mid June, Isabel, the president’s daughter, reportedly published photos on Instagram of his father playing cards with his grandchildren while sitting on a sofa in the living room, while in Barcelona. The once powerful president, despite being out apparently in exile, appears to be having fun, but the family and clan hangs on a tightrope.
So far, quite a number of his family members have left Angola. Few months after the ex-presidnt’s departure to Europe, two of his daughters- Isabel and Welwitschia, are said to have joined him. Their half-brother, Jose Eduardo Paulino, is also said to have joined the family afterwards.
And now, only Jose Filomeno remains in Luanda, as he cannot leave the country due to legal proceedings.
It now remains to be seen how relations between the former first family, that has become fierce opponents of President Joao’s regime, will be settled